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ALBANY: Rats gain upper hand in battle for playoff berth

A one-point lead for the final playoff spot in the AHL's East Division with one week left isn't much.

But the way the Albany River Rats gained their one-point lead on Bridgeport may mean everything.

Keith Aucoin, Jakub Petruzalek and Brett Carson scored shootout goals to help the River Rats defeat the Sound Tigers 3-2 Saturday night at the TU Center and break a fourth-place tie with Bridgeport.

More importantly for Albany, the win gave the Rats a 5-3 season series advantage over Bridgeport, which gives them the tiebreaker should the Sound Tigers rally in the final week of the regular season.

I guess it's appropriate that it went into a shootout, said Albany coach Tom Rowe. "We've been battling back and forth all year."

Just the fact that the Rats are in a battle for a playoff berth is welcome news for a franchise that hasn't been to the AHL playoffs the last seven years.

"This is as good for the organization as it is for the team," said Rowe. "We want to get people back in the building, and this is a good way to do it."

It looked for a little while that Bridgeport would gain the upper hand in the battle when Masi Marjamaki scored 6:19 into the first period. The Sound Tigers maintained their one-goal lead until the early stages in the second period when Shane Willis and Cody McLeod tallied to put Albany ahead 2-1.

The Rats had a golden opportunity to take a two-goal lead later in the second period. A five-minute major to Marjamaki and a two-minute tripping infraction against goaltender Billy Thompson gave Albany nearly seven minutes of power play time including 39 seconds of a five-on-three advantage. But the Rats couldn't convert.

"We can't let five-on-threes go like that," said Aucoin. "That's something we'll work on in practice."

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