Image c/o Frank Fimmano
A little heartbreak and lot to celebrate.
This was the mantra of the evening as the Phantoms defeated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 2-1 in a shootout victory in a thriller in front of the largest crowd at PPL Center this season Saturday night.
Nick Cousins sent the 8,687 in attendance home happy with a nifty deke and score in the fourth round of the skills competition, but it was Anthony Stolarz who stole the show, making 44 saves between regulation and overtime helped overcome a relentless Penguins attack.
It was a quick start for the Phantoms as they opened up scoring 1:15 in as Petr Straka fired home a fat rebound off of Brett Hextall’s initial shot. The team has had a knack for scoring often and demonstrated it once more.
“We did a good job on the breakout,” Straka said. “[Hextall] did a good job getting the puck to the net and I just did my part driving in looking for the rebound.”
From here on out it was mostly all Penguins, keeping the Phantoms on their heels with sustained pressure as it really controlled the rest of the game. WB/Scranton came in as one of the best possession teams in the AHL and provided plenty of evidence to back it up. Despite the array of shots, Stolarz came up with save after save and kept to the score in the Phantoms favor.
“Stolarz was aggressive,” coach Terry Murray said. “He had to be good right away after two early power plays. I thought his depth [in net] was really good.
Finally, with just 2:08 left in the game, the Penguins finally broke through on their 39th shot as Jean-Sebastien Dea got just another of Jayson Megna’s turnaround shot on goal to redirect it past Stolarz just before the net was knocked off its moorings.
While giving up a game-tying goal that late would be deflating for any team, it was important for the Phantoms to preserver quickly as the game was still up for grabs.
“It was kind of a heartbreaker, but the guys battled back,” Stolarz said. “It was nice to see that we were able to overcome that.”
After an exciting, albeit sloppy, overtime period went scoreless, the teams took to the shootout to determine a winner. After trading goals and misses, Stolarz made a big poke check to thwart the Penguins attempt, setting it all up for Cousins to win it for the Phantoms.
“It’s something I like to have in the arsenal, especially with my long arms,” Stolarz said.
After dropping their last three matchups to the Penguins, Stolarz felt good about getting the win over their division rival.
“It’s huge, for us come out tonight and play 67 minutes,” Stolarz said. “ We’re going to look to let this momentum keep rolling.”
The Phantoms are back it tomorrow as they travel to the Jersey Shore to face the Albany Devils at famous Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
-Jay Rosehill won’t get credit on the stat sheet, but he had a huge assist to Austin Fyten by finding his tooth. Fyten got clipped with a high stick right to the mouth. Rosehill skated over, picked it up and handed right back to Fyten. What a guy.
-Murray changed up the lines throughout the game trying to spark the offense. Despite having solid forward core, the goals just aren’t happening. The team is 28th in the league in scoring and aren’t going to have elite goaltending performances every night to fall back on.
-Coming into the game, the teams had combined for 245 penalty minutes in their four other meetings this season. It was actually a surprisingly tame contest tonight, with only one fight and 22 penalty minutes between them both.
-This was the sixth time in 12 home games to reach overtime. The Phantoms clearly know how to entertain the home fans, like it or not.
-The Phantoms exchanged the orange and black for midnight green to support the Eagles with former player Jeremiah Trotter and cheerleaders in attendance. The green jerseys had numbers on the front and relegated the logo to the shoulders. Different, to say the least.