image courtesy of philly.com
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms were on the wrong end of an ultra-rare six-on-three in the final minutes, but survived to defeat the Toronto Marlies 3-2 in front of a sold out crowd at PPL Center Saturday night.
“Great job by the guys who were out there,” coach Terry Murray said. “You can’t lose composure and you have to stay calm. It’s [both] a physical and mental thing.”
The Phantoms were on the wrong end of two penalty calls late and Toronto made the decision to go with the extra attacker to double up the Lehigh Valley defenders.
“We’ve practiced a five-on-three, but never a six-on-three,” Murray said.
Things started off rocky for the Phantoms after the Marlies scored on their first shot on goal thanks to a Tyler Bodie deflection in front of a screened Rob Zepp. Their lead would not last for long thanks to the part of some flashy passing from Taylor Leier, whose no-look backhand pass was finished off with ease by Scott Laughton at the 9:55 mark.
Less than a minute later, Nick Cousins finished off a two-on-one pass from defenseman Steven Delisle giving the Phantoms a 2-1 advantage. It was a strong opening frame by the home team as they limited Toronto to six shots and disrupted any offensive flow Toronto tried to put together.
Both teams came out a bit flat to start the second as the teams went back and forth without any real scoring opportunities. The Marlies went on the power play looking to tie the game, but it was the Phantoms who came up with the shorthanded chances by Laughton and Kevin Goumas but couldn’t get it past Charles Gibson.
The Marlies had the Phantoms on their heels the final half of the second but some strong play by Zepp kept the Lehigh Valley lead in tact at the end of two.
The Phantoms had ample opportunities to get an insurance goal in the third period thanks with two power plays but came up empty on both. As coach Terry Murray had stressed the night before the importance of not taking bad penalties, Robert Hagg was called for interference and the Marlies were able to tie the game thanks to Greg McKegg snapshot over Zepp’s shoulder at the 11:35 mark.
The Phantoms were given a golden chance to redeem themselves with a 5-on-3 power play with just under five minutes left and didn’t disappoint. Brandon Manning blasted a slap shot from the point to regain the lead 3-2.
But with two minutes left to play is where all the excitement began. Oliver Lauridsen and Laughton both found themselves in the box to put the Phantoms in a precarious situation. The Marlies unleashed an onslaught of shots towards the net and found themselves with a wide open net but came up empty as Hagg redeemed his earlier penalty by blocking what would be the game tying shot. Several frantic moments later the Phantoms secured victory. Zepp couldn’t recall an ending quite like this one.
“I’m sure I have at some point, but they’re few and far between” Zepp said. “Not the ideal way to end the game but it’s always a little invigorating when you can end the game with a win.”
Zepp was quick to credit Hagg, Manning and Darroll Powe for their play in front of him in the final minutes, but the Phantoms untimely penalties still put them in an unnecessary situation. Laughton, whose excellent game only blemish was one of the late penalty calls, took responsibility.
“It’s not fun watching from the box and if they score you’re the guy to blame,” Laughton said.
Zepp, who started the previous night, was steady in net and made big stops when it counted, finishing with 28 saves and giving Lehigh Valley a much needed win in their first home game in two weeks.
The Phantoms improve to 6-6-1-0 and are off until Wednesday when they welcome division rival Hershey to the PPL Center.