ALLENTOWN, PA- The Lehigh Valley Phantoms used their balanced scoring attack to eventually triumph over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 5-2 on Friday night at PPL Center. Improved penalty killing was the difference, as Lehigh Valley still could not solve their power play woes. Bridgeport made a push late, but ultimately it was not enough to complete the comeback and skate away with the two points.
The Phantoms kept up their trend of scoring first and early while on home ice, taking the first lead of the game just 4:36 in. A line rush across the Bridgeport blueline lead to Greg Carey carrying the puck into the offensive zone. He pulled off from his teammates with the puck, and sniped top corner on Kristers Gudlevskis, popping the twine to make it 1-0.
Lehigh Valley had two chances to get their power play out of the 1-for-26 funk its been in to start the season. They just were not able to change their luck just yet, barely getting a shot off on their first opportunity and having the period clock expire on their second.
Dustin Tokarski came up huge to keep it a 1-0 game, however, when it seemed sure Bridgeport would tie the game. Due to traffic in his crease, Tokarski fell down and laid back into his own net with the Sound Tigers buzzing around. He caught himself just enough, however, to get an arm up while sprawling out to rob a Bridgeport forward with his glove, getting a nice ovation from the crowd. The save helped the Phantoms take their small lead into the second, where they had 40 seconds of carry-over power play time to work with thanks to a slashing call on Tanner Fritz at the 18:40 mark of the 1st.
The Phantoms failed to capitalize on the power play yet again in the second but were able to use their struggling penalty kill to their advantage in the second. First, the animosity picked up between the two clubs. Danick Martel took an extra whack at a frozen puck in the Bridgeport crease, something Kyle Burroughs took exception to. He decided to take a whack at Martel, which knocked off the Phantom forwards glove. Martel also took exception to the extra whack, and the two dropped the gloves for a spirited bout. The fight seemed to keep the trend of momentum in the Phantoms favor, as now the crowd was involved completely.
Martel capitalized on that at the 14:23 mark of the third, beating Kristers Gudlevskis low to the blocker side on a breakaway chance to make it 2-0. It all started with a bank up the farside boards from Mike Vecchione. Martel intercepted that pass at center ice and had room to work, so sped up through the neutral zone. He then fired low and doubled the Phantoms lead. Almost four minutes later, Chris Conner used a short-handed breakaway to score his first of the season and make it a 3-0 contest. Conners goal, assisted by Steven Swavely and Mark Alt, was the only one of three shorthanded breakaways the Phantoms had that they capitalized on. The other two went to Tyrell Goulbourne, who missed on both his chances. The Phantoms outshot Bridgeport 18-7 in the middle frame, taking all the momentum into the third.
The Sound Tigers turned the tables on Lehigh Valley early, scoring two quick goals to cut the Phantoms lead to one just 7:10 into the third. The first came on a beautiful snipe from Steve Bernier, who banged one off the short side post and in past Tokarski at the 6:23 mark to make it 3-1. Then a slapshot from the point by Seth Helgeson got tipped past Tokarski and in just 47 seconds later, making it 3-2 with a lot of time left. Bridgeport seemed to completely shift momentum, but the Phantoms would have none of it.
It took ten minutes, but Danick Martel scored his second of the night, and AHL leading 7th on the year, by tucking a wraparound through the legs of Tokarski at the 17:49 mark to almost put the game out of reach at 4-2 with 2:11 remaining. Bridgeport took their timeout right after the Martel goal, and quickly pulled Gudlevskis with 1:50 remaining. The empty net presented an opportunity for Martel to get his second hat trick of the season, but he elected to pass to Phil Varone to ice the game and make it 5-2.
Despite going 0-for-3 on their struggling power play, making them 1-for-29 on the season, the Phantoms used their balanced scoring attack and a strong outing from their penalty killers to take a big win over a division rival in Bridgeport. Tokarski’s 31 saves and Martel’s Gordie Howe hat trick plus an extra goal lead the way, as Lehigh Valley improved to 4-1-1 on this young season. They’ll head to Binghamton tomorrow for their first matchup against the Binghamton Devils to round out their weekend of play.
3rd- BST RW Steve Bernier= 1G
2nd- LVP G Dustin Tokarski= 31 saves
1st- LVP LW Danick Martel= 2G, 1A, fight