Leighton’s return spoiled as Devils down Phantoms

Michael Leighton made his Adirondack season debut Sunday night at the Glens Falls Civic Center with a 25-save performance, only to see the rest of his Phantoms teammates fall short in a loss to the Albany Devils by a score of 3-2.

Jeff Frazee put on a stellar performance for the Devils (24-19-11) with 36 saves, and Phil DeSimone scored twice including the deciding tally before the nine-minute mark of the third. Joe Whitney had a goal of his own in the second period and another assist on DeSimone’s first goal.

Andreas Lilja scored midway through the second and Eric Wellwood scored late into the third in an attempt to spark a comeback but the Phantoms (21-30-4) fell victim to the clock.

In a one-goal game, both teams entered the third period with momentum swapping back and forth. The Phantoms looked like they were on track for tying the game until almost at the nine-minute mark when Matt Konan’s pass to clear the Phantoms zone was intercepted by Whitney who fed it to DeSimone and he beat Leighton to give the Devils a 3-1 lead at 8:56 of the third.

The game looked pretty much over for the Phantoms who found themselves in their own end more often than not. It wasn’t until 1:36 remained on the clock when Wellwood came flying over the blue line receiving a cross ice pass from Shane Harper and ripped it over the left shoulder of Frazee, sparking Adirondack back to life.

“I think they thought the game was over,” said Wellwood. “We had the opportunity to score another one.”

The Phantoms had a close call with Leighton on the bench when Albany’s Mike Sislo had appeared to score an empty net goal only to have it waived off due to a teammate being offsides. Adirondack had some chances at the end but they were too little, too late.

Despite the 9-9 shot count at the end of the first period neither goalie was really tested. Both Leighton and Frazee made one or two good saves but the rest were not a real threat. Jason Akeson and Jon Sim did pair up for a nice zone entry and what was probably Adirondack’s only real scoring chance but Frazee made the pad save on Akeson’s shot. Leighton made a good save off of a deflection in front but other then that had a pretty easy first period.

Neither team was able to maintain solid pressure. A lot of play was either in the neutral zone or along the boards. Both teams were coming off three straight days of play and in the first it showed. Albany had the slight edge with Adirondack playing both the remainder of a postponed game in Springfield followed by a full game against Springfield on Friday night.

The second period started off rough for the Phantoms as they came out incredibly sloppy. This led to Albany sustaining pressure in the Phantoms end until DeSimone beat Leighton over the glove from the right circle at 1:49. Albany continued their pressure as the Devils’ David Wohlberg fed Whitney the puck who easily slid the biscuit through Leighton’s gaping five-hole at 6:50.

Things began to look pretty dismal for the Phantoms at this point, looking like they had no life left after 2 1/2 road games in the last two days.

As play continued though the Phantoms seemed to wake up a little bit and started winning some battles along the boards. The team started to rally after one of those board battles was won by Marcl Noebels who fed it to Lilja who drove to the slot and shot one past Frazee giving the Phantoms their first goal of the game at 10:24 in the second.

“I got a good pass from Noebels, kept my head up and shot it,” said Lilja. “I saw that I had a little hole down in the left corner.”

That goal seemed to give some life back to the hosts, who finished the period better than they started.

Notes: Lilja’s goal was his first professional goal since January 2, 2011, when he played for the Anaheim Ducks and it was his first AHL goal since the 2000-01 season…Adirondack has another 3-in-3 weekend coming up, with home games against Springfield and Connecticut plus a road game at Albany…Phantoms bruiser Zack FitzGerald currently is 49 penalty minutes away from 1,500 in his AHL career. The Hershey Bears Boyd Kane is the active AHL leader with 1,537.