ALLENTOWN, PENN- After a chippy game less than 24 hours ago which resulted in a Phantoms victory, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms looked to close out their first-round series Saturday. A win will make it the first time since the 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs that the Phantoms will be playing in the second round. Despite a 32-save performance by Dustin Tokarski Friday night, Alex Lyon got the nod between the pipes for the Phantoms. As for the P-Bruins, Jordan Binnington was in net to start tonight’s game for Jay Leach’s squad.
Entering the game, the Phantoms would be without the league’s Most Valuable Play as Phil Varone sustained an injury late in the second period Friday and did not return. Without Varone helping the offense, the Phantoms wanted to make a statement early and thanks to alternate captain T.J. Brennan it was able to happen on his first goal, and third point, of the series.
The Phantoms weren’t done yet as less than a minute later Chris Conner banked in a Reece Wilcox rebound to double the Phantoms’ lead for his ninth-career Calder Cup playoff goal. The Bruins would try to get back into the game as they had a 5-on-3 power play, but Lyon came up huge keeping Providence off the board for the time being.The Phantoms wanted to give their fans one more thing to cheer for in the opening period and thanks to the Chris Conner’s breakaway backhander fivehole they were awarded. After the first-period intermission horn sounded, Binnington decided to let out some frustration when he punched Danick Martel in the head.
When the second frame started, Jay Leach decided he had seen enough of Binnington and decided to replace him with Zane McIntyre. It was the first time the Phantoms have seen McIntyre since Game 1 last Friday as he was up with the Boston Bruins earlier in the week. Binnington had a first period he would like to forget as he only made 11 saves on 14 Lehigh Valley shots.
There was more pushing and shoving between these two teams which simply do not like each other. Up three goals, the Phantoms would take their foot off the gas which gave the Bruins a chance to come back in the game. Late in the second, Providence captain, Tommy Cross, ripped one from the left point to end Lyon’s shutout.
Despite having their foot off the gas, the Phantoms penalty kill came up huge just as it has throughout this series. The Phantoms entered the playoffs with a penalty kill percentage at 83.1% which was ninth-best in the Eastern Conference and 17th best in the entire league. Throughout the game, Lyon would play much better than he did in the first two games of this series as he prevented second chances by covering the puck early and often.
The Bruins wouldn’t back down without a fight, and with eight minutes to go Anton Blidh re-directed a Chris Breen shot to cut Lehigh Valley’s lead down to one. The Bruins almost tied the game 19 seconds later but Lyon stopped Connor Clifton cold. However, the Bruins would tie the game at three less than three minutes later thanks to Austin Czarnik who has a been a huge thorn in the Phantoms side this series.
After 60 minutes, overtime was needed to settle this one. The Phantoms couldn’t get to the locker room quickly enough as they were outshot in the third period 18-4. The fourth and final shot in the period for the Phantoms was one that could have won them the game, but McIntyre committed high way robbery on Corban Knight. It was the third time that a Lehigh Valley Phantoms playoff game would head to overtime. Last season, the team went 1-1 in overtime games in their first-round matchup against their in-state rivals, the Hershey Bears.
In overtime, the Bruins had most of the momentum but with 1:24 to go the longest-tenured Phantom Maxim Lamarche from the left corner beat McIntyre and ended the Bruins’ season. It was only the eighth-career AHL goal for Lamarche. The Phantoms will now take on the Charlotte Checkers in the Atlantic Division Finals with game one set for Friday night at the PPL Center. Be sure to follow @SinBinPhantoms for updates and live tweets along with an article previewing the series.
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