A defensive battle and a goaltenders duel between Michael Leighton and Alex Lyon tonight in Allentown as the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins battled the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to a scoreless draw late in the third period.
Garrett Wilson finally broke the deadlock with a goal when he muscled a puck past and through Lyon to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
What happened after that, really was inconsequential.
The Phantoms, who battered Leighton with shot after shot in the third period, finally broke through with under a minute to play with Lyon vacated for the extra attacker with a goal from Chris Conner. It was a goal that Leighton would want back.
But it was inconsequential.
No scoring in overtime, Nicolas Aube-Kubel scored in the top of the fourth for the Phantoms and gave the Atlantic Division Champions an extra point to their already impressive season. Pens lose 2-1 in a shootout.
Yep, there is that five syllable word again: Inconsequential.
But why? Why is it inconsequential?
All the Penguins needed was one point to secure home ice in the first round. They got it with the play of Michale Leighton and the goal by Wilson. It seems funny to me that in instances where the Penguins need a big performance, like clinching a playoff spot last weekend and sewing up home ice in round one, it’s Michael Leighton that always ends up in the starting rotation.
The Penguins released their home schedule, what is still not known is the opponent. Providence shutout Springfield 5-0 in Springfield Saturday to keep their hopes at a three seed alive. It will come down to the final games Sunday afternoon. Providence hosts the Thunderbirds in a rematch and Charlotte closes out the regular season with a game in Bridgeport. The Penguins will probably dress a young lineup, much like the Phantoms did tonight Sunday afternoon in Hershey.
I’ll give the home schedule to you at the end of the blog story. I usually, when the Penguins are on the road, write the first and second period recaps in between intermissions. I would just use what I wrote above and just call it a night but since it’s already written, may as well use it.
So the lines were….
Garrett Wilson – J-S Dea – Daniel Sprong
Adam Johnson – Gage Quinney – Anthony Angello
Tom Sestito – Jarrett Burton – Christian Thomas
Joseph Cramarossa – Teddy Blueger – Tom Kostopoulos
Chris Summers – Lukas Bengtsson
Niclas Almari – Kevin Czuczman
Jarred Tinordi – Zach Trotman
Michael Leighton – Tristan Jarry
Lineup Notes: Two Penguins draft picks made their WBS season debuts. Anthony Angello was in for Ryan Haggerty and Niclas Almari was in for Andrey Pedan.
First Period: If you are going to read about the game in the papers Sunday, the best summary of what happened in the first period in Allentown may read, “After a scoreless first period…” That’s because nothing really of substance happened beyond teams trading a few power plays.
Second Period: Reverse of fortunes for the teams. The Penguins started off slow in the first period and turned it on, then the Phantoms started slow in the second and turned it on as the period went on. The Penguins had to kill a 4:00 double minor and did so successfully. Niclas Almari busted up a would be breakaway for the Phantoms after his defense partner Kevin Czuczman was stopped point blank by Alex Lyon.
Third Period: Leighton was dialed in, stopping Radev Fazleev and Aube-Kubel on two separate attempts.
Garrett Wilson finally broke the scoreless deadlock.
With Lyon out, Chris Conner scored to tie the game. Leighton caught slightly off balance and Conner won the race to the puck near side and poked it home.
Overtime: Decided nothing. Pens had a power play that they did not score on. They were 0-for-4 tonight.
Shootout: Lyon and Leighton stopped the first three shooters they faced. Aube-Kubel scored on Leighton in the top of the fourth and Lyon stopped J-S Dea in the bottom of the fourth to secure the extra point for the Phantoms.
Three Stars: 3) Nicolas Aube-Kubel (shootout game winning goal, -1) 2) Michael Leighton (30 saves on 31 shots) and 1) Alex Lyon (26 saves on 27 shots)
Around the Division: Hartford beat Binghamton 4-2, Hershey beat Bridgeport 2-1 in the insignificant games in the Division, Providence shutout Springfield 5-0 to pull within a point of idle Charlotte to pull within a point to third place in the Atlantic in the only other game in the Division which mattered.
Standings: Lehigh Valley and Wilkes-Barre have home ice locked up round one. Charlotte has 94 points and are a point ahead of Providence. Bridgeport, Hartford, Springfield and Hershey round out the division.
If Lehigh Valley runs a highlight package I will put it here.
Here is your Round One home schedule for Wilkes-Barre / Scranton. What is NOT known is opponent yet. Penguins will employ the 2-3 format because of distance to Providence or Charlotte.
“One More Kick at the Cup” appears to be the playoff motto. With this being Tom Kostopoulos’ final run, appropriate marketing.
Here are you scenarios for opponent.
If Charlotte wins or are tied with Providence in points, Charlotte is the three seed.
If Providence wins AND Charlotte loses in regulation, Providence is the three seed.
I’ll have more answers on this for sure tomorrow. Gameday setup for the final regular season home game in Hershey hits the blog Sunday at 1.
Let’s Go Pens!