Phantoms Hand Rival Penguins 3-0 Shutout Loss

Sunday, December 27, 2015
Andrew MacDonald now has nine points (three goals, six assists) in his last nine games.
Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News

"It doesn't have to be pretty." - Scott Gordon, head coach Lehigh Valley Phantoms

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (15-16-1-0) didn't play a perfect game this afternoon in Wilkes-Barre by any stretch of the imagination, but as head coach Scott Gordon said after the game it doesn't have to be pretty. There aren't any style points heading the Phantoms' way, but they did get two points in the standings after a 3-0 shutout win over their rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to kick off a season-high five-game road swing.

Jason LaBarbera had been playing better as of late without being rewarded, but the Phantoms goaltender was nothing short of perfect this afternoon in stopping all 35 shots he faced. Andrew MacDonald, Petr Straka and Colin McDonald each tallied a goal in the win, while Nick Cousins led the way with a game-high two assists.

The shutout loss was the Penguins' second in a row after they came into today's game following a 5-0 blowout loss in Hershey the night before.The Penguins pinned the Phantoms in their defensive zone for long stretches of time throughout the contest - especially early on - but were unable to put one past LaBarbera. 


Scott Gordon on the Phantoms weathering the storm:
We had a hard time getting out of our zone. Probably half of it was our inability to make plays coming out of our zone. They don't lose too often. I'm sure they thought they were going to come out and set the tempo, and they did. We weathered the storm and did a good job with the penalty kill tonight and I think we got some momentum from that.
Andrew MacDonald on the 1st period and his goal:
Obviously, [LaBarbera] came up huge there in the first. They had us hemmed in a bit. They came out really hard, doing a good job on their fore-check. [LaBarbera] stood on his head there and made some really big saves, kept us in it. We weathered the storm - I think Cousins was trying to go weak side to one of our forwards driving the net and it happened to hit a skate and I just happened to skate into it. I had quite a bit of time so I was able to find a whole.
MacDonald on getting the job done:
I think it was a gutsy effort. As the game went on we got better and better. Like you said, it wasn't perfect but sometimes you have to grind these games out and get the win.
Jason LaBarbera on the 1st 10 minutes of the game:
Yeah they were buzzing really hard. We had a hard time with their fore-check early on. Sometimes it's nice to have games like that where they can get you in the game early and you feel like you're moving decent and you're getting pucks thrown at you. It's a lot easier sometimes to do that than it is to sit around for awhile.
LaBarbera on how rewarding it was to get the shutout win:
Yeah it is for sure. I've been around long enough, it's certainly gets frustrating when you're not winning. You're playing okay but things aren't going your way. It's good for the guys in the room to see that I still can play, can still contribute. For me, that's the biggest thing. Always have faith in yourself, but at this point in my career getting the guys in the room to see that.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins came out firing on all cylinders, much as you would expect a team coming off a 5-0 blowout loss in Hershey the night before would. They opened up a 7-1 shot advantage on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the opening six and a half minutes and dominated play - spending just about 100% of that time in the Phantoms' defensive zone.

On a quick transition breakout, however, a pass from Nick Cousins intended for a winger cross-ice was broken up and came right to Andrew MacDonald at the center point. MacDonald had an open shooting lane to the net stepped into one, blasting the puck off the post and in past Brian Foster to give the Phantoms the 1-0 lead 9:46 into the first frame.

The Penguins continued to press on, drawing back-to-back power plays late in the 1st period, but were unable to even the score before heading to the locker room for the first intermission. Jason LaBarbera stood tall in the opening 20 minutes, especially early on. In all, he made 13 saves in the first period to help his team hold onto the 1-0 first period lead.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton went right back to spending the majority of the 2nd period in the Phantoms' defensive zone, drawing another power play in the first minute of the middle frame. The Phantoms were able to kill off the penalty, their 14th straight successful kill, and Lehigh Valley continued to weather the storm - spending a lot of time in the defensive zone but getting in shooting lanes and clearing out Penguins forwards in front of the net looking for rebounds.

A late period penalty on Kael Mouillierat gave the Phantoms their first power play of the night. Despite going a paltry 1-for-9 last night against Bridgeport, the Phantoms cashed in with 1:23 left before the second intermission to extend their lead to 2-0. Petr Straka took a pass from Nick Cousins and his shot was partially blocked by a Penguins defender in front, but somehow found its way past Foster. It was Straka's first goal in his last seven games, but his 16th of the year leads the entire AHL in goals scored.

The Phantoms continued to get strong goaltending from LaBarbera in the third period, as he stopped 14 more Penguins' shots to complete his 35-save shutout. Colin McDonald took a pass from Robert Hagg with 11:13 left in regulation and picked a corner on Foster to complete the 3-0 final score.


Jason LaBarbera (35 saves - 35 shots) got the start in net for the Phantoms tonight after Anthony Stolarz got the start Saturday at home against Bridgeport.

Scott Gordon confirmed that forward Evan Rankin has been re-signed to another professional tryout (PTO) as his old one is set to expire.

Brandon Alderson missed tonight's game due to an illness per the team.

Alderson's absence meant the Phantoms actually played a man down tonight with only 11 forwards and six defensemen in the lineup.

Scratches: Christian Marti (upper body since 11/20), Kevin Sundher (lower body since 11/27) Michael Parks (upper body since 10/17), Danick Martel (undisclosed since 12/18), Brandon Alderson (illness), Maxim Lamarche (unknown), Chris Conner (upper body since 11/28), Matt Lashoff (undisclosed since 12/16) and Logan Pyett (out indefinitely)


Taylor Leier - Tim Brent - Colin McDonald
Petr Straka - Nick Cousins - Aaron Palushaj
Tyrell Goulbourne - Kevin Goumas -
Jay Rosehill - Cole Bardreau - Joe Rehkamp

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

Anthony Stolarz - Jason LaBarbera


1st Period

9:46: LV - MacDonald (4) - Cousins, Palushaj
14:07: LV - (PP) Brent, minor (holding the stick)
15:54: LV - (PP) Rehkamp, minor (tripping)

2nd Period

1:00: LV - (PP) MacDonald, minor (slashing)
17:58: WBS - (PP) Mouillierat, minor (goaltender interference)
18:37: LV - PPG Straka (16) - Cousins

3rd Period

8:47: LV - McDonald (2) - Hagg
13:34: LV - (PP) Drewiske, minor (cross-checking)
15:43: WBS - (PP) Erixon, minor (tripping)


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