Allentown, PA- The Lehigh Valley Phantoms dropped a wild one Friday night, losing to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 6-5 in a shootout. There would be 5 lead changes before the end of this one, with 11 goals between the two combatants. The rivalry tilt looked like any other between the two the last few seasons, hard checks, heavy hits, after whistle scrums, and even a fight.
Special teams play would again be the focus early Friday night, with two minor infractions leading to some open ice. Andrey Pedan from Wilkes-Barre got called for slashing 4:44 into the frame, which seemed to give the Phantoms their first power play.
Lehigh Valley ended up giving the Penguins a shorthanded chance, and a big save had to be made by Dustin Tokarski. He made that save, a sprawling one when it seemed he was down and out, but after he froze play and got a whistle, a scrum ensued on top of him. TJ Brennan ended up with the only penalty, a slashing call, and the teams went to 4 on 4 for a full two minutes before Wilkes-Barre got a brief power play of their own.
The open ice led to lots of scoring chances, and at the halfway point of the period, the shots on goal were 9-6 in favor of Lehigh Valley. The checking and intensity picked up from there. Both teams started throwing the body around, really opening up real estate out on the ice. Chris Conner used it, and a bad turnover by the Pens while making a line change to open the scoring.
Phil Myers picked up the puck on the turnover and sprung Conner down the far side wall. Conner turned on the afterburners and flew into the Wilkes-Barre zone. He cut toward the net and sent a last-second backhand pass across the crease to Tyrell Goulbourne, who tapped home the feed off the arm of Casey DeSmith to make it 1-0.
Later, the Phantoms struggling power play got a huge opportunity to turn things around. Off a faceoff in the Wilkes-Barre end, Danick Martel caught a high stick from Chris Summers. Martel was bleeding from the ear, giving the Phantoms a 4-minute man advantage due to the double minor. Despite getting quality chances on the lengthy power play, the Phantoms were unable to score, taking just a 1-0 lead into the second.
That lead did not last long, however, as Wilkes-Barre tied the game just 1:43 into the middle period. A bouncing puck in the Phantoms crease was finally settled down and buried by Gage Quinney to make it 1-1. The floodgates opened from there. Six more goals would be scored during the rest of the period, with the teams heading to the third tied at 4. Wilkes-barre made it back to back tallies to take a 2-1 lead, scoring on their power play.
The Phantoms dead last ranked penalty kill stood no chance against the Pens power play, as a point shot rebounded off Tokarski into the slot, where Dominick Simon found it and slid a pass to Christian Thomas who buried the puck into a wide-open net to give the Penguins their first lead of the game. They added to that lead with another special teams goal, capitalizing on a turnover while the Phantoms were up a man.
Greg Carey failed to keep the puck in at the blueline as he fell over, leading to an odd-man break for the Penguins. Jean-Sebastien Dea was able to get in a slide the puck past a down and out Tokarski to give the Penguins a two-goal lead. Their lead would only last 45 seconds, however. The Phantoms finally caught a break on their power play, as Danick Martel was able to out wait Casey DeSmith and just pot the puck into a yawning net with the Wilkes-barre netminder well out of position. The goal, Martels 11th in 11 games, cut the deficit to 1 for the Phantoms.
5 minutes later, TJ Brennan erased that one goal margin, cutting in down the far side wall and finding space between DeSmiths mask and the post from a bad angle to tie the game at 3. Mikhail Vorobyev gave the Phantoms the lead back just over a minute later, scoring his first professional goal off a centering pass from Conner to make it 4-3. Before the period could end, however, Ryan Haggerty got the game knotted up, making it 4-4 with 11 seconds left in the second.
As he ended the wild scoring in the second, Haggerty opened the scoring in the third with his second of the game to again put the Pens in front. He tipped home a point shot from Pedan through his own legs to make it 5-4 in favor of the visitors. The back and forth would not end there however, as Conner capitalized on a deflection at the other end to retie the game.
A point shot from Brennan got tipped on goal in the high slot by Cole Bardreau. The puck then deflected off a Penguins defender in his own crease and to Conner at the side of the net. He buried it into the open net to again knot the game. Despite the outpouring of goals, the game would need more than 20 minutes to be decided.
Overtime would be needed, and in the extra session, the Phantoms pulled off their best penalty kill of the young season. It seemed as though the matchup between the 7th ranked power play of Wilkes-Barre and the 30th penalty kill was going to decide the game, with the Phantoms having already surrendered a goal to the Pens unit earlier in the game. This would not be the case, however, as Tokarski and the Lehigh Valley PK came up big, keeping the game tied at 5 and heading to a shootout.
It was in the shootout, in the bottom half of the third round, that former Hershey Bear Christian Thomas ended the game. He beat Tokarski, adding the shootout winner to the power play tally he had earlier in the game to lead Wilkes-barre to victory. The Phantoms ended up with a point in the standings, but the loss ended up gift wrapping the Penguins sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division. Lehigh Valleys penalty kill held lethal power play weapon Daniel Sprong off the score sheet, with Sprong only tallying an assist at even strength. The Phantoms power play did not stray from their woes, going 1 for 6, including not being able to convert on a 4-minute opportunity and giving up a shorthanded goal against. Special teams play continues to be the Achilles heel.
3rd-WBS RW Ryan Haggerty(2G, +2)
2nd-LVP LW Chris Conner(1G, 3A, +2)
1st-WBS LW Garret Wilson(3A, +1)
The Phantoms return to action tomorrow night in Binghamton against the Devils. They return to home ice on Sunday against the Toronto Marlies for Pink in the Rink night. Pink in the Rink is to raise breast cancer awareness, a partnership the Phantoms, and many other teams have taken part in for years.