There are those games, one or two per per season, that a team plays so poorly, they don’t deserve to win.
For 50 minutes on Saturday night, that was how the game unfolded for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
The Phantoms scored four times in the games’ final 10 minutes, including the game winner by Colin McDonald at PPL Center.
This was a game where, if not for Anthony Stolarz, The Phantoms’ could have been down five after the first 20 minutes. The Thunderbirds had 22 shots in the period. By comparison, Lehigh Valley managed just nine. However, it took until there was less than three minutes left in the period for either team to get on the board.
Springfield’s Logan Shaw deflected a Mike Downing point shot at the edge of the crease at 17:47.
Things went from bad to worse for Lehigh Valley just 4:26 into the second. With the Phantoms on a five on three power play, former Detroit Red Wing Jakub Kindl caught up to a loose puck and broke in all alone. Stolarz came out to play the puck, but instead retreated back to his crease. That moment of indecision allowed Kindl to roof a backhander for his first of the season. Juho Lammikko collected the assist on the goal.
Greg Carey’s point blast cut the deficit in half just 17 seconds later.
“Good plays by skill guys helped our power play click, and I just happened to find sodt areas and got (the puck) away quick.”
Danick Martel, who missed the last three games with injury, tied the game at 10:04. A turnover behind the net by Mackenzie Weegar allowed Martel to stuff the puck past Reto Berra before Berra even realized what had happened.
Two goals in the last five minutes of the period restored Springfield’s two goal gap headed to the final frame.
Paul Thompson deflected a Brent Regner shot from the center point at 15:23. The secondary assist went to Chase Ballisy.
2:04 later, Tim Bozon finished off a cross ice feed from Rihards Bukarts that beat Stolarz down low.
In the third, the light turned on, both figuratively and literally, for the Phantoms. “We just have to play our game”, Greg Carey would say after the game.
Play their game they did.
Carey’s slapper from the half wall at 10:53 sewt in motion a four goal tsunami that would ultimately seal two points for the home team.
Taylor Leier deflected a Will O’Neill point shot past Berra on the power play less than four minutes later.
32 seconds later, a strange goal gave Lehigh Valley its’ first lead of the night. Scott Laughton unleashed a terror of a slapshot from the slot, while Berra made the save, trhe shot bvroke the stick of Springfield defenseman Ed Wittchow. That broken stick allowed McDonald to fdind the puck, spin and beat Berra all in one motion. Leier got the secondary assist for his sixth of the season.
Chris Conner added an empty netter with 28 seconds left that sealed an unlikely two points for the Phantoms.
Impressions: Flat out, Lehigh Valley didn’t deserve this win, but Teams that can doi what they did tonight build character that could very well carry them on a run going forward or serve them well later on in the season. Stick taps to Anthony Stolarz, without his sparkling effort in the first 20 minutes, this is almost a certain loss.
Notes: Phantoms’ Defenseman Robert Hagg took a shot to the side of the head in the third. He required stitches and did not return.
3 Stars: 3) LV-Greg Carey (2 Goals)
2) LV-Taylor Leier (Goal, Assist)
1) LV-Colin McDonald (Game-Winning Goal)
Up Next: The Phantoms’ travel to Utica, NY to face the Comets Friday at 7:05