Leier's Third Period Heroics Earn Phantoms a Point in Shootout Loss

Saturday, February 20, 2016
Phantoms third period comeback nets them one point in the standings.
With 8:00 left in the third period and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms trailing 4-2, another disappointing loss appeared to be in the making. Instead, two goals by Taylor Leier off two setups from Chris Conner - the second of which came with 1:54 left in regulation - forced overtime and gave the Phantoms a chance to steal two points from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Unfortunately, the Sound Tigers were able to prevail in a shootout but the Phantoms earned a valuable point in a game where losing two points in the standings to a Bridgeport team they're chasing for a playoff spot would have been detrimental to their chances of making a push towards the postseason.

The loss pushes the Phantoms to nine points behind Bridgeport for fourth place in the Atlantic Division, but Lehigh Valley is only six points behind 5th place Providence (two games in hand on the Phantoms) for what is currently the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Lehigh Valley has a third game in three nights Sunday in Springfield with another opportunity to pick up two points in the standings and finish off a 5-out-of-6 point weekend.

Thoughts from Taylor Leier and head coach Scott Gordon in addition to a full recap after the jump.

Scott Gordon post-game thoughts:
I thought our effort was pretty good all night long. We had a slow start but I thought we took over the first period and started to tilt the ice in our favor. Usually when you're getting that many power plays your doing something right and the opposition is doing whatever they can to stop you and it's sending them to the penalty box.
Gordon on the third period comeback:
From that standpoint down 4-2 and to be able to tie the game up and give yourself a chance to win it in overtime or the shootout I don't think anyone would be complaining about that.
Gordon on the Conner/Leier duo:
Overall their play has been good since they've been playing together, and we need it. We obviously have a few guys out now that we count on to score and it's timely that they are stepping up like that.
Taylor Leier on the third period resolve:
In the second intermission we talked about how we thought we were playing well and deserved better than to be down 3-2. They got that quick one in the third and we just had our backs up against the wall and kind of stuck with it. 
Leier on the duo with Chris Conner:
Me and [Conner] have been clicking lately and we are kind of feeling each other out now that we have played together for a few weeks. We have been talking about that play behind the back for awhile and he made an unreal play. It was a tap in for me.
Leier on his 2nd goal to tie the game late in 3rd:
We were talking about it earlier actually that he thought if he could take wide and I could just go to the back post, we would have a tap in. And he put it on my a tape again for another tap in.
Leier on the team's no-quit mentality:
We're resilient. We came together and knew this was a big game with them wherever they are up on us in the standings. It was a four point game. You can't really ask more out of our group of guys but it was too bad we couldn't finish it off in the shootout.\

The Phantoms were hemmed in their own zone quite a bit in the opening ten minutes of the first period, having trouble getting puck possession and generating much of anything.

After a Max Lamarche holding minor gave Bridgeport the game's first power play, the Sound Tigers capitalized on the man advantage to take a 1-0 lead. Mike Halmmo fed a pass to Kane Lafranchise at the center point, who faked a shot and dished it to the left-wing circle to his D-partner Jesse Graham. Graham's quick shot eluded Anthony Stolarz through an expert screen by 6-foot-6 forward Justin Vaive to put Bridgeport ahead with 6:28 left in the first frame.

The Phantoms appeared to have tied things up 1:06 later, as Aaron Palushaj pushed a puck through goaltender Christopher Gibson. The puck went in and the red light came on, but referee Jake Brenk immediately waved the goal off stating that the goaltender was pushed into his net. Palushaj was on his knees atop the crease digging for the loose puck underneath Gibson and was shoved into him as the puck was going in.

Instead of letting a questionable call get the best of them and take them off their game, the Phantoms grabbed momentum in the final minutes of the period - tying the game shortly after failing to score on their first power play of the night.

Phil DeSimone did all the work, skating through the neutral zone 1-on-4 and splitting the defense on his way to a series of dekes that allowed him to beat Gibson for his 2nd goal of the season with 2:26 left before the first intermission.

"We started off slow, but as the period went on we got a lot better," assistant coach Riley Cote said in his between periods interview with Service Electric TV2 Sports. "Keep getting in on the fore-check and keep it simple," he added of the message moving onto the final two periods.

The Phantoms carried their momentum from the first period into the middle frame, drawing themselves their third straight power play 2:52 into the period and capitalizing to take the 2-1 lead with 15:48 left. Taylor Leier won a puck battle behind the net and got it to Petr Straka at the half wall, who spotted Adam Comrie at the center point. Straka got the puck up top to Comrie and his blast from the blue line went past everyone on its way into the net.

Bridgeport didn't just go away quietly into the night. Instead they tallied back-to-back goals in the second half of the period to re-gain both momentum and the lead heading to the third. Taylor Beck took a pass from Lafranchise and fired a snipe of a wrist shot to the top shelf past Stolarz with 10:15 left in the period to tie things up at 2-2.

The Sound Tigers took the 3-2 lead with exactly five minutes left in the period as LaFranchise tallied his third assist of the night, starting up a play that saw Colin Markison feed a puck from behind the net out in front to Connor Jones in the slot. Jones wasn't able to get a good shot off but the fanned shot trickled through Stolarz and barely made it across the goal line. Nonetheless, Jones' first goal of the season was a big one for Bridgeport, giving them the one goal lead heading into the final frame.

It appeared that the Sound Tigers were well on their way to an easy win after going up 4-2 just 1:08 into the third. Alan Quine picked up a pass from the half-wall from Kyle Burroughs and picked the top left corner on Stolarz to extend Bridgeport's lead to two. It looked to be a deflating goal for Lehigh Valley.

Instead, the Phantoms pushed back and made it a one-goal game with 7:55 left. Taylor Leier took a behind the back pass from Chris Conner on a fake behind the net and beat Gibson high to the short side on a quick release snap shot to make it a 4-3 game.

The Conner/Leier duo wasn't done there. After failing to tie things up on a late power play chance with about six minutes left in regulation, the Phantoms got four minutes of power play time to work with in the final 2:17 of the period and made it count. Again Conner set up Leier for his second of the night as Conner drove wide and found Leier cutting to the back post with 1:54 left in regulation.

Lehigh Valley came back from a 4-2 deficit to force overtime, and after a scoreless five minutes brought things to the shootout, the Sound Tigers scored on their first round shot attempt by Jesse Graham and the goal stood as the only tally in the shootout to give Bridgeport the extra point in the standings.


Anthony Stolarz (25 saves - 30 shots) got the start in net for the Phantoms tonight against Bridgeport, one night after getting the start last night against Springfield. Jason LaBarbera again served as the backup.

Jay Rosehill returned to the Phantoms' lineup for just his 13th game this season, his first action since December 27th.

Christian Marti was a healthy scratch on the back end, giving the Phantoms their first 12 forward, six defensemen lineup since January 10th.

Colin McDonald (upper body) is expected to miss the rest of the weekend, though his injury isn't considered to be long term.

Scratches: Christian Marti (healthy), Kevin Sundher (lower body since 12/27), Colin McDonald (upper body), Michael Parks (upper body since 10/17), Tim Brent (hand/wrist surgery) and Logan Pyett (out indefinitely)

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)

Petr Straka - Cole Bardreau - Pavel Padakin
Taylor Leier (A) - Phil DeSimone - Chris Conner
Danick Martel - Kevin Goumas - Aaron Palushaj
Tyrell Goulbourne - Joe Rehkamp - Jay Rosehill

Davis Drewiske (A) - Robert Hagg
Sam Morin - Mark Alt (A)
Adam Comrie - Max Lamarche

Anthony Stolarz - Jason LaBarbera


1st Period

12:30: LV - (PP) Lamarche, minor (holding)
13:32: BST - PPG Graham (5) - Lafranchise, Halmo
15:30: BST - (PP) Quine, minor (hooking)
17:34: LV - DeSimone (2) - unassisted
19:18: BST - (PP) Burroughs, minor (interference)

2nd Period

2:52: BST - (PP) Quine, minor (hooking)
4:12: LV - PPG Comrie (2) - Straka, Leier
5:58: LV - (PP) DeSimone, minor (tripping)
9:45: BST - Beck (15) - Lafranchise, Pulock
15:00: BST - Jones (1) - Markison, Lafranchise
15:42: BST - Gibson, minor (tripping) - served by Halmo

3rd Period

1:08: BST - Quine (11) - Burroughs, Halmo
2:25: LV - (PP) Morin, minor (tripping)
4:50: BST - (PP) Burroughs, minor (interference)
12:05: LV - PPG Leier (16) - Conner, Bardreau
13:09: BST - (PP) Vaive, minor (unsportsmanlike)
17:43: BST - (PP) Carkner, minor (holding)
17:43: BST - (PP) Carkner, minor (unsportsmanlike)
17:43: BST - Carkner, ten minute misconduct
18:06: LV - PPG Leier (17) - Conner, Comrie


No scoring/penalties



Leier - no goal
Straka - no goal
Conner - no goal


Graham - GOAL
Quine - no goal


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