Phantoms Hand Penguins Their First Home Loss

Friday, December 4, 2015
Phantoms get a big road win against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tonight.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms came into Wilkes-Barre facing a Penguins team that entered tonight's game with an incredible 16-2-0 record on the season, including a perfect 10-0-0 mark at home - a streak which started with a 6-4 win over the Phantoms way back on October 17th.

Tonight, the Phantoms brought their A-game. They fell behind in the 1st period, but continued to play their game and were rewarded with back-to-back goals in the middle frame. Lehigh Valley held onto the one-goal lead behind a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty kill and another strong performance in net by Anthony Stolarz, who made 35 saves on 36 shots and improved to 9-4-1 on the season.

"We didn't win a championship by beating Wilkes-Barre," head coach Scott Gordon said after tonight's 3-1 win. "It's obviously a confidence booster, but we have to embrace the opportunity to be able to get ourselves above .500."

Aaron Palushaj, Mark Alt and Taylor Leier tallied goals for the Phantoms in the win, which put Lehigh Valley back at the .500 mark (11-11-1-0) for the first time since they were 1-1-0 after two games into the season.

Post-game reaction from head coach Scott Gordon in addition to Mark Alt and Taylor Leier after the jump.

Would you like to see coverage of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms while they're on the road continue? Please lend a helping hand to keep me providing live coverage of the team while they're on the road this season by making a donation to my GoFundMe page.


Scott Gordon on the strong game against the best team in the league:
It took a lot of effort from our guys to be able to play with a team that, you look at the offensive players they have, all four of their lines can score at anytime. It took a lot of smart play our guys as far as managing the puck on our entries and getting out of our zone. To me, that was the difference. We were much more efficient (tonight) 
Gordon on the PK tonight going 6-for-6:
Our PK numbers are probably not going to reflect how we have killed, but I think the last 15 games or so we are killing at 86-87%. It's been a work in progress with all the injuries and all of that but it's going in the right direction. Against their power play, it was even more impressive that we were able to shut them down and obviously some big saves by Stolie.
Mark Alt on the big road win:
This is a tough opponent - we knew that going into it. We came ready to play tonight and it was one of our better games this year. It felt good. We kept playing the way we wanted to. We were on them. The whole game, we kept a good steady pressure in their end and it paid off.
Alt on the penalty kill:
They had some good opportunities, but we shut them down in front of the net and got pucks out.
Taylor Leier on ending Penguins' perfect home record:
We took it as a challenge for our team. Coach kind of challenged us before the game and said this is our biggest game so far this season - 22 games into the season. I think the guys were just excited before the game and it kind of gave us a little jump. We had a good start to the game and kind of just rolled with it.
Leier on how the team had success tonight:
We were really skating and moving our feet. We played really good in the D-zone too. Really good along the walls. The defense made quick ups and that helps us forwards out a lot and helps us get the puck out easier. Overall, we played well and I think we gained confidence and it was just a snowball effect for the team.

The Phantoms had the early jump in Wilkes-Barre tonight, with Danick Martel getting a shot off just below the face-off circle. Matt Murray was up to the task, and had to be sharp in the opening minute and a half after the Phantoms had forced an icing call.

A miscue behind the Phantoms net just under three minutes into play cost them and gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead. Two Phantoms players were behind the net with the puck, but unfortunately for Lehigh Valley Kevin Goumas was tripped up by his own teammate as a fore-checking Scott Wilson caused a panic.

Wilson corralled the puck and got one in on Stolarz and the rebound dropped to Conor Sheary,who muscled one past the Phantoms netminder 2:58 into the contest to give the Penguins the early lead.

Despite the deficit, the Phantoms were playing pretty well. They were generating consistent pressure in the offensive zone and at one point out-shooting the Pens 7-3 before back-to-back penalties put Lehigh Valley shorthanded and gave Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a chance to disrupt the momentum.

Stolarz made several sharp saves with the Phantoms shorthanded, and Lehigh Valley even generated a pair of shorthanded chances on their first of two successful kills in the opening period. Taylor Leier glanced the post on a shot from a bad angle, followed by a two-on-one rush with Tyrell Goulbourne and Kevin Goumas that didn't connect.

Things got physical in the second period, but it benefited the Phantoms as they scored back-to-back goals to take a 2-1 lead.

After Kael Mouillierat tried driving Danick Martel into the Penguins bench and was whistled for roughing, the Phantoms got their first power play of the night and made it count. Andrew MacDonald sent a stretch pass to Aaron Palushaj, who slipped behind the Penguins penalty killers and went five-hole on his breakaway on Murray to even the game 5:35 into the middle frame.

A few shifts later, Jay Rosehill and Aaron Palushaj sandwiched Sheary in the neutral zone - catching the Penguins forward up high and sending him to the ice. That drew the ire of the Pens' bench, but Sheary and Palushaj were assessed matching minors.

Right after the 4-on-4 had ended, which saw the play heavily slanted in the Penguins' favor, the Phantoms got the puck into the offensive zone off the rush and Tim Brent spotted Mark Alt cutting to the net. Brent fed Alt a cross-ice pass and the defenseman picked a corner on Murray for his 1st of the season to give the Phantoms a 2-1 lead with 10:12 left in the period.

The Phantoms held on in the third period despite several flurries of high-pressure from the Penguins in the Phantoms' defensive zone. Credit Stolarz with some spectacular stops and the defense for standing tall - especially in the last two minutes up a goal and on the penalty kill.

Taylor Leier added a shorthanded empty net goal to seal the deal on the 3-1 victory, floating one into the empty net with 20.8 left to play.


Anthony Stolarz (35 saves - 36 shots) got the start in net tonight for the Phantoms. Martin Ouellette served as Stolarz's backup.

Jason LaBarbera is getting closer to returning to game action, per head coach Scott Gordon.

Matt Lashoff was hit in the face with a stick by the follow-through a shot in Utica Wednesday night and although he took the warmup tonight in Wilkes-Barre, he sat out as a healthy scratch.

Up front, Jay Rosehill got back into the lineup after sitting out the last 10 games as a healthy scratch. All of those except Wednesday's 3-1 win in Utica was due to the league's veteran rule. Chris Conner's injury last Saturday against Providence freed up a veteran spot for Rosehill.

Michael Parks, out since 10/17 with an upper body injury, has skated the last two practices with the team per Gordon and is also getting closer to return.

Cole Bardreau is another injured guy close to returning to action. Earlier in the week Gordon ruled him out for this weekend's games but said it's possible he returns as soon as next week.

Scratches: Jason LaBarbera (injured), Christian Marti (injured), Cole Bardreau (injured), Kevin Sundher (injured), Michael Parks (injured), Chris Conner (injured - out six weeks), Matt Lashoff (healthy) and Logan Pyett (out indefinitely)

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)

Taylor Leier - Tim Brent - Brandon Alderson
Petr Straka - Danick Martel - Aaron Palushaj
Tyrell Goulbourne - Kevin Goumas - Evan Rankin
Jay Rosehill - Joe Rekhamp - Pavel Padakin

Andrew MacDonald - Jesper Pettersson
Davis Drewiske - Robert Hagg
Sam Morin - Mark Alt

Anthony Stolarz - Martin Ouellette


1st Period

2:58: WBS - Sheary (4) - Wilson, Mouillierat
7:16: LV - (PP) Morin, minor (slashing)
9:32: LV - (PP) Brent, minor (hooking)

2nd Period

2:15: LV - (PP) Hagg, minor (hooking)
5:09: WBS - (PP) Mouillierat, minor (roughign)
5:35: LV - PPG Palushaj (6) - MacDonald, Stolarz
7:03: WBS - Sheary, minor (cross-checking)
7:03: LV - Palushaj, minor (slashing)
9:48: LV - Alt (1) - Brent, Morin
12:51: LV - (PP) Martel, minor (high-sticking)
13:44: WBS - (PP) Mouillierat, minor (holding)

3rd Period

0:45: LV - (PP) Brent, minor (tripping)
5:12: WBS - (PP) Sundqvist, minor (interference)
18:01: LV - (PP) Drewiske, minor (delay of game)
19:39: LV - EN/SHG Leier (6) - unassisted


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