Phantoms Mount Another Third Period Comeback

Friday, February 26, 2016
The Phantoms come up short in the shootout tonight against Hartford. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News.
For the third straight game, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (25-25-2-3) found themselves behind in the third period. Tonight against the Hartford Wolf Pack, they were able to - for the third straight game - even things up and force overtime.

The difference tonight is that the Phantoms had a glorious opportunity with 3:55 left in overtime after Aaron Palushaj ate a high-stick from Travis Oleksuk that gave Lehigh Valley a four minute power play. The Phantoms were unable to net the game winner and came up short in the shootout.

Did the Phantoms pick up a valuable point in the standings, or let a second point slip away after their shootout loss tonight? The answer is both, but depending on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist you might lean towards one or the other.

The reaction in the locker room was similar. The players after the game took the glass half-empty approach - they were unable to score on the double-minor 4-on-3 power play and it prevented them from getting two points.

Head coach Scott Gordon didn't express the same frustration and took the glass half full approach - the team hasn't lost in regulation in their last four games and continue to pick up points in the standings.

Either way, the Phantoms will need to continue picking up points in the standings in their final two games of the weekend Saturday at home against Utica and Sunday in Hartford against these same Wolf Pack.

Thoughts from Gordon, Taylor Leier on his 1st career pro "fight" and Colin McDonald after the jump.


Scott Gordon's takes the optimistic route:
It was a huge point for us. There were a couple of near-misses in OT. If the puck goes an inch the other way, the guys were trying to make plays. We were looking at a four by six and it didn't happen. To get that point was huge.
Gordon on the goalies:
At this time of the year, you're not going to see too many goalies playing poorly. Their guy played well also. It's what you need this time of the year.
Gordon on forgetting about the OT frustration and looking at the big picture:
When it's all said and done, we have four games where we haven't lost in regulation so to get points in that many games is a stride in the right direction. Now we just have to maintain it through the weekend. 
Taylor Leier on 3rd period "fight":
I asked him what he was doing and he said I ran him. I just finished my check on him but what can you do that's the game.
Leier on getting his first fighting major:
I was surprised. I was just waiting for the whistle, and then I got hit and he started punching me so I just tried to tie him up and take him down. Hoping we would get a power play out of it and we did, and we tied it up.
Leier on letting the second point slip away after failed power play in OT:
It's so frustrating. We did a good job and coming back and battling. At the end of the day, we have to score on that power play in overtime and we didn't.
Colin McDonald on the power play goal
Leading up to that we were a little bit sloppy. We had some different personnel out there with Leier in the box and I think we were all a little confused. It was just a broken play and I was yelling for it from Conner and he made a good play, brought the goalie over to him and it gave me pretty much the whole net to score.
McDonald on the overtime power play:
This one stings a little bit. It's winning percentage, so points - of course they mean something - but at the end of the day you have to get in the win column. We know how big this game and this weekend is. That stings, especially with that four minute power play.

In a fast-moving first period, the Phantoms and Wolf Pack played to a scoreless tie until some late spark from Lehigh Valley gave them the game's first goal. Despite being out-played and out-shot 7-2 through the first  half of the period, Davis Drewiske joined an offensive rush and won a loose puck battle at the bottom of the right-wing face-off circle to set things up for the Phantoms. 

After a nice cutback, Drewiske threw a puck on net that appeared to hit off of Aaron Palushaj's skate on its way to Magnus Hellberg. Hellberg made the initial stop, but kicked the rebound right out to Danick Martel who put it right back into the empty net with 1:15 before the second intermission to give the Phantoms the 1-0 lead. It was Martel's team-leading 19th goal of the season in his 47th game this year.

Hartford continued to force the issue in the second period, evening the score at 1-1 just 5:23 into the middle frame. Max Lamarche did a good job to break up a 2-on-1 rush but Shawn O'Donnell was in hot on the puck behind the Phantoms' net and forced a turnover that quickly went out in front from Chris McCarthy to Nick Tarnasky and past Anthony Stolarz. It was Tarnasky's 13th of the season.

From there, the pace continued to at a high pace with whistles few and far between. In fact, it wasn't until the final 20 seconds of the period that the game's first penalty was called. After Hartford's Ryan Bourque left the ice following a follow-through of a clearing attempt by Drewiske, referee Peter MacDougall whistled Phil DeSimone for a very soft slashing call on the next shift - sending the Wolf Pack to a power play that carried over into the final frame.

The Wolf Pack capitalized on the game's first power play early in the third period to take a 2-1 lead. With 12 seconds left on DeSimone's hooking minor, Nicklas Jensen worked a puck to the center point for Mat Bodie, whose point shot was tipped past Stolarz by Travis Oleksuk 1:28 into the period.

Then midway through the final frame, well after a whistle, Bourque took a lengthy run at Taylor Leier in front of Hartford's bench - dropping his gloves and throwing several punches at Leier while the Phantoms forward kept his gloves on and simply wrestled the Wolf Pack forward to the ground to end the assault.

Both players were whistled for fighting majors, but Bourque got an extra two minutes for roughing to send the Phantoms to their first power play of the night with 10:54 left in regulation. On the ensuing man advantage, the Phantoms evened things up at 2-2. Chris Conner got a puck in the slot from Petr Straka and fed a pass across the grain to Colin McDonald who, with the Hartford penalty killers and goaltender shifting the opposite way, scored into what was basically an empty net with 9:49 left.

The Phantoms had their fair share of chances in the final minutes to pull off another comeback win in regulation, but the two teams headed to the three-on-three overtime deadlocked at 2-2. 

In the extra session, the Phantoms had an opportunity to get the two points after getting a four minute power play with 3:55 left in overtime. Unfortunately for Lehigh Valley a strong Hartford penalty kill and four stops by Hellberg got the Wolf Pack into the shootout, where Leier and Straka both failed to convert while Nicklas Jensen and Brian Gibbons used fancy moves in route to a shootout win for Hartford.


Anthony Stolarz (36 saves - 38 shots) got the start in net for the fifth straight game. Jason LaBarbera didn't play any of the three games last weekend, so that's something to keep an eye on this weekend.

Colin McDonald returned to the Phantoms lineup tonight after a three-game absence, scoring the game-tying power play goal in the third period to force overtime.

If you missed it, the Phantoms signed forward Dalton Smith to a PTO to bolster their bottom-six forward depth. Dalton's father, Derrick, and uncle, Keith Primeau, were both longtime Philadelphia Flyers in their respective NHL careers which made signing with the Phantoms special to the younger Smith. 

Smith's arrival and Rosehill's return to action meant the Phantoms had 14 healthy forwards in addition to Kevin Sundher skating at practice this week, so Lehigh Valley re-assigned Pavel Padakin to Reading (ECHL).

Christian Marti was a healthy scratch on Saturday and Sunday to make room for Rosehill in the lineup, which saw head coach Scott Gordon switch from an 11/7 lineup to the more traditional 12 forwards and six defensemen. Tonight Marti slotted back in for Rosehill and the team went back to 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

Scratches: Kevin Sundher (lower body since 11/27), Michael Parks (upper body since 10/17), Dalton Smith (healthy), Tim Brent (hand/wrist surgery), Jay Rosehill (healthy) and Logan Pyett (out indefinitely)

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)

Petr Straka - Cole Bardreau - Colin McDonald
Taylor Leier (A) - Phil DeSimone - Chris Conner (A)
Danick Martel - Kevin Goumas - Aaron Palushaj
Tyrell Goulbourne - Joe Rehkamp - xxxxxxxxx

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

Anthony Stolarz - Jason LaBarbera


1st Period

18:45: LV - Martel (19) - Drewiske, Palushaj

2nd Period

5:23: HFD - Tarnasky (13) - McCarthy, O'Donnell
19:39: LV - (PP) DeSimone, minor (slashing)

3rd Period

1:28: HFD - PPG Oleksuk (7) - Bodie, Jensen
9:06: LV - Leier, major (fighting)
9:06: HFD - Bourque, major (fighting)
9:06: HFD - (PP) Bourque, minor (roughing)
10:11: LV - PPG McDonald (11) - Conner, Straka


1:05: HFD - (PP) Oleksuk, double-minor (high-sticking)



Leier - no goal
Straka - no goal


Jensen - GOAL
Gibbons - GOAL


ironpigpen said...

For the benefit of those outside the reality of the situation, critical standing points just aren't going to cut it at his juncture.

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