WILKES-BARRE, PA — It was a case of the good and the bad for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Wednesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
The good? The Phantoms secured their first playoff berth since 2009 when they were the Philadelphia Phantoms.
The bad could have severe consequences for any playoff run they wish to make.
Goaltender Anthony Stolarz lasted all of 92 seconds, leaving the game after making a save on a Kevin Porter shot, unable to put any weight on his left leg.
Taylor Leier tied the game in the shootout and Corban Knight scored the clincher in the shootout, leading Lehigh Valley to a crucial victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Before the Stolarz injury, Wilkes-Barre’s Garrett Wilson settled a score from Valentine’s day, fighting Sam Morin just 38 seconds into the contest. Morin, you’ll remember, caused Wilson to miss weeks with an upper-body injury after a dangerous hit into the boards.
The Phantoms managed only nine shots in the first and didn’t have any grade-A scoring chances. Wilkes-Barre, on the other hand, had a great chance to take the lead. 20 seconds into a Tom Kostopoulos tripping call, Dominik Simon had a great chance on a three on one, but Alex Lyon, (pictured) who replaced Stolarz, made a great glove save.
Morin took a double-minor for high sticking with 4:02 left, but the Penguins were unable to capitalize. The two teams went to the dressing room scoreless, with the home team holding a 13-9 edge in shots.
The second period was penalty free, and that enabled it to look more like a tennis match than a hockey game. Troy Josephs had two chances to score early in the period, but Lyon was again equal to the task. With nine minutes left, Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith tried to play the puck to a defenseman, but instead, it went straight to Lehigh Valley’s Radel Fazleev.
Fazleev tried to get the puck in before DeSmith could find his positioning, but it didn’t matter, as he was able to make the save.
Lehigh Valley came out flying in the thirds, as they peppered Desmith. 2:30 into the frame, Knight was stopped down low, but corralled his own rebound and found Greg Carey in the slot, but again, DeSmith thwarted him with a sliding pad save.
It was the Penguins who got on the board about three minutes later when Simon picked up the rebound of a Teddy Blueger sharp angle shot and fired it past Lyon. That lead lasted all of 5:01 though, as Leier found the rebound of a Max LaMarche shot and tucked it around the leg of the prone Penguins’ netminder. The goal was Leier’s 12th of the season and snapped the Phantoms’ scoreless streak of 268:49 versus the Penguins, a streak that stretched over the part of five contests.
After a scoreless overtime, Lyon stopped all three shots in the shootout, while Knight went top shelf beating DeSmith, and snapping a playoff drought that Phantoms fans had waited eight years to see end.
Notes: With the Stolarz injury, it is expected that G Martin Ouellette will be recalled from ECHL Reading, who begin their Kelly Cup playoff Quest on Thursday night, when they host the Brampton Beast.
3) LV-Taylor Leier (Goal)
2) WBS-Casey DeSmith (34 Saves
1) LV-Alex Lyon (34 saves in relief)
Up Next: The Phantoms host Providence in their home finale Friday, needing a win to clinch home-ice in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.