Phantoms Rally in Third To Cap Weekend With Win

Sunday, February 28, 2016
Lehigh Valley concludes the weekend with a big come from behind win in Hartford.
As they often do, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms trailed going into the third period. At the tail end of a three-game weekend, a deflating goal allowed with 41.5 seconds left in the middle frame looked like it would doom the Phantoms' chances of making a late push toward the postseason.

Instead, the Phantoms again rallied in the third period - evening the game just 2:02 into the final frame on Taylor Leier's 18th goal of the season. Aaron Palushaj broke up a play in the defensive zone and just missed a stretch pass from Jay Rosehill about eight minutes later and turned it into the game winner.

Palushaj raced to the loose puck behind the net and caught Hartford's goaltender Magnus Hellberg as he was about to play it, forcing a turnover and feeding it in front to an open Kevin Goumas for what was basically an empty net with 11:08 left in regulation to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead.

The Phantoms hung on in the final minutes behind 24 saves by goaltender Anthony Stolarz, who played his third game in three nights in net. The win puts them one point behind Hartford for 6th place in the Atlantic Division and six points out of 5th place and the current final playoff spot held by Bridgeport, who lost in regulation tonight to Albany.

Thoughts from assistant coach Riley Cote and forwards Kevin Goumas and Aaron Palushaj on what the players called the biggest win of the season after the jump.


Riley Cote's thoughts on the game tonight:
We definitely have resilience. Besides the first three minutes, it was a pretty good first period. Unlike the last couple games at home when we started out flat and had to push back later. It just shows a lot character the way we responded to a goal like that. 
A 3-in-3 when these guys were at home yesterday, there were a lot of things working against us - the flu and injuries and whatever else you want to throw in. I think all around everyone played a solid game and just kept it simple, played hard and found a way to win the game so that's the bottom line.
Aaron Palushaj on the play that set up game winning goal:
I kind of picked up that guy a little late and ended up making a pretty decent play to prevent him from getting a good scoring chance on Stolie, then Rosehill almost hit me for a breakaway. I just raced down the ice and I figured, just try not to get a penalty. I made sure I didn't trip the goalie, lifted his stick up and Goumas was calling for it. I figured if I put it in front Goumas would put it in the net. 
Palushaj on the no-quit mentality of this team:
I feel like we are just never out of the game. There's no quit. We just find ways to keep battling back and get points. It was a huge points for us tonight. This was obviously the biggest win of the season for us especially playing a team we are trying to catch. We are going to enjoy it on the way back and get back to business and be ready Wednesday night.
Kevin Goumas on the third period:
I thought we good pretty much the whole game. It was a hard fought game the first two periods, they were able to get that one goal but we stayed composed and showed a lot of character coming out in the third. The guys were pretty excited knowing it was just one goal and knew if we could get that one we would put the pressure on them and we were able to capitalize on it.
Goumas on how he saw game-winning goal develop:
I just had got on the ice in the defensive zone and the puck came out to Rosie and he tried to Palushaj, they misconnect but that was all from Aaron. He got in on the forecheck and drew both guys to him and I was just all alone in the slot there and he found me.

The Phantoms and Wolf Pack played a scoreless first period which was a tale of two stories. In the opening half of the period, Hartford had the decided edge in play almost expected having the fresher legs after enjoying a rare Saturday night off.

As the period wore on, the Phantoms began to gain momentum. After being out shot 4-1 in the opening 12 minutes of play, Lehigh Valley started to pressure Hartford goaltender Magnus Hellberg - rattling off five of the next six shots before earning their first power play of the night with 1:42 left before the second intermission.

The power play started off in a tailspin as Hartford enjoyed back-to-back odd man rushes and the better chances during the first minute of the Phantoms' man advantage. Anthony Stolarz stopped all eight shots he faced in the opening stanza to get Lehigh Valley into the middle frame in a scoreless tie with the Wolf Pack.

Lehigh Valley was much better in the middle frame, but just couldn't find the back of the net. They put up 10 shots on net and had momentum on their side in the second half of the period, going on back-to-back power plays.

Their second man advantage was shortened by a bench minor for too many men, and while Hartford didn't convert on the power play they took a 1-0 lead just seconds after it had expired. Chad Nehring got a puck up to Brian Gibbons on an odd-man rush, who hit the trailing Jayson Megna on the right wing for a quick shot past Stolarz with 41.5 seconds left before the second intermission.

While it certainly looked to be a deflating goal at the time, the Phantoms came out for the third period staring a 1-0 deficit and knowing that another regulation loss would really put a damper on their chances of pushing toward the postseason.

Just 2:02 into the period, Chris Conner's spin-o-rama on net found its way to Taylor Leier's stick atop the crease and Leier's 18th of the season evened the game at 1-1.

The goal gave Phantoms momentum and put the pressure on Hartford to respond. Aaron Palushaj was late getting to his man in the slot but he was able to just get enough of a block to break up the play and spring the Phantoms up ice.

Jay Rosehill's stretch pass to Palushaj didn't connect, but it didn't stop Palushaj from winning a race and forcing Hellberg out of his net to play the puck. Palushaj stole it off the Hartford goaltender behind the net and fed a quick pass in front to Kevin Goumas for the go-ahead goal with 11:08 left in regulation.

From there, the Phantoms clung to the one-goal lead and pulled off another come from behind win in back to back Sundays. Stolarz stood tall amidst a barrage of shots and chances in the final minutes to preserve the win for Lehigh Valley - a much-needed two points to keep their realistic hopes of the postseason alive.


Anthony Stolarz (24 saves - 25 shots) made his 7th straight start in net tonight for the Phantoms. Martin Ouellette, called up from Reading, is expected to back up Stolarz tonight in Hartford.

With uncertainty surrounding the health of some of the defensemen as a flu bug is making its rounds through the locker room, the Phantoms called up Jesper Pettersson from Reading.

Mark Alt and Max Lamarche were both feeling under the weather and did not make the trip to Hartford, so Pettersson stepped into the lineup on defense.

Dalton Smith was the lone healthy scratch up front for the Phantoms.

Colin McDonald signed a two-year contract extension with the Flyers, announced during last night's game.

Scratches: Mark Alt (illness), Kevin Sundher (lower body since 12/27), Michael Parks (upper body since 10/17), Max Lamarche (illness), Dalton Smith (healthy), Jason LaBarbera (upper body), Tim Brent (hand/wrist surgery) and Logan Pyett (out indefinitely)

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics):

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

Davis Drewiske (A) - Jesper Pettersson
Adam Comrie - Robert Hagg
Sam Morin - Christian Marti

Anthony Stolarz - Martin Ouellette


1st Period

1:18: LV - (PP) Marti, minor (tripping)
4:15: LV - Pettersson, minor (holding)
4:15: HFD - Brown, minor (embellishment)
15:22: LV - (PP) Palushaj, minor (interference)
18:18: HFD - (PP) Bourque, minor (interference)

2nd Period

11:16: HFD - (PP) Graves, minor (tripping)
16;02: HFD - (PP) Jensen, minor (hooking)
17:14: LV - (PP) bench minor, too many men (served by Palushaj)
19:18: HFD - Megna (11) - Gibbons, Nehring

3rd Period

2:02: LV - Leier (18) - DeSimone, Conner
8:52: LV - Goumas (5) - Palushaj
14:09: LV - Palushaj, minor (hooking)
14:09: HFD - O'Donnell, minor (embellishment)


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