Man, the Phantoms never give up.
After going down 3-0 and looking slow and lethargic at times, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms battle back at home to force overtime but ultimately fall in a shootout. Penguins win via shootout 4-3 on Friday night.
The game can best be defined in number of chapters.
1) The Penguins raced out to a 3-0 lead early in the second period after a dynamite first period.
2) Then, the Phantoms started to block shots and got one back at the conclusion of the second.
3) They scored a power play goal early on in the third, then with starting goalie Alex Lyon pulled for an extra attacker, tied the game at 3.
Wilkes-Barre / Scranton could have packed it in, buried under the avalanche of pressure that the Phantoms hit them with. The intensity was ramped upon even more when, in overtime…
4) The Penguins would kill off a penalty.
Stefan Noesen and Joseph Blandisi score in the shootout rounds and Lehigh Valley, with all that offense, lose their third shootout of the still very young season.
Casey DeSmith opposed the aforementioned Alex Lyon.
Lineup Notes: A ton. Sam Lafferty, Joseph Blandisi and Adam Johnson all returned from Pittsburgh this week. As a result of these lineup changes, Brandon Hawkins was sent back to Wheeling and Reid McNeill was released from his PTO. So for the lineup, we had Joseph Cramarossa and Ryan Haggerty come out of the lineup as victims of the veteran rule. Andreas Martinsen made his Penguins debut. On the back end, Zach Trotman debuted and Kevin Czuczman returned from injury replacing the departed Reid McNeill and Michael Kim, who was a regular scratch.
Oh, and Dustin Tokarski backed up Casey DeSmith.
The strongest the lineup has been all season and a sign that the organization from Pittsburgh to here is healthy.
Kind of. Nick Hart announced on the pregame that Kasper Bjorkqvist had knee surgery this week and is out for at least six months, effectively ending his season. If the Pens go deep in playoffs you may see him again, but it’s an unfortunate end to a promising rookie year for Bjorkqvist that sadly, never got off the ground.
First Period: Penguins survived an early rush by the Phantoms to open the scoring but DeSmith was up to task, making an odd save with his back. Adam Johnson was inadvertently cut after he tripped Nicolas Aube-Kubel and went off to the room for repairs, missing about seven minutes of action. When he returned, he put a shot on net that caromed around and found its way to Sam Lafferty who scored to give the Pens an early 1-0 lead.
That was a power play goal.
Late, Stefan Noesen scored his 10th goal of the season, tying him for the AHL lead when Jon Lizotte blacked a shot. Noesen was off to the races and scored this nice goal on the breakaway.
Period ended 2-0 in favor of the Penguins, the first time all season they blanked the opponent in the first period.
Second Period: Anthony Angello scored this goal which hit a post and trickled across for a 3-0 Wilkes-Barre lead.
(they later changed that secondary assist to Jon Lizotte, Martinsen has to wait for his first WBS assist)
Then the shots were all blocked or hard to come by, kind of like the last time that the Penguins were in this building but with the roles reversed.
David Kase scored to end the DeSmith shutout bid when an Andy Welinski shot from the point caromed off of bodies and to Kase for the goal.
Shots were a scant 4-4 in the second period.
Third Period: Lehigh Valley would cash on a power play when Andy Andreoff would be left unmarked in the slot to put home a power play goal and suddenly the Penguins were nursing a one goal lead.
Wilkes-Barre / Scranton would have two back to back power plays but never were able to score and play continued.
Casey DeSmith had a ton of top saves to keep the Penguins ahead by one.
But, with Lyon vacated for the extra man, Lehigh Valley would find the equalizer when T.J. Brennan would shoot from the point and Greg Carey would deflect the shot in for a tie game.
It was off to…
Overtime: Periscoped, as all road contests are, here:
If you don’t want to sit through it all, you’ll see that the Penguins found themselves on a penalty kill when Zach Trotman placed a Phantom on his wallet when for taking too many liberties with Casey DeSmith. Wilkes-Barre came away unscathed.
No scoring in overtime, so it was off to a shootout where Stefan Noesen and Joseph Blandisi scored. Morgan Frost scored in the top of the first, but then DeSmith stopped Mikhail Vorobyev and Maxim Sushko right after.
Three Stars: 3) David Kase (goal) 2) Greg Carey (goal, assist) 1) Joseph Blandisi (shootout winning goal)
The Good: The start was fine, but the team needs to learn how to string a full sixty together in 10 minute or less increments. The penalty kill in overtime also gets a mention here. Tenacity was shown by Wilkes-Barre for not packing it in and losing on a power platy goal in overtime.
The Bad: The Phantoms ate the elephant one bite at a time and didn’t erase a 3-0 deficit all at once, they took what Wilkes-Barre gave them and slowly got back into the swing and ultimately got a point.
Turning Point: Those two power play chances right after the Andreoff goal were golden opportunities missed for the Pens and the Phantoms ultimately stole a point they had no business anywhere near. Wilkes-Barre was really lucky to get out of Allentown with a full two points.
Around the Division: Cleveland beats Charlotte 2-1 in overtime….Syracuse rolls Bridgeport 5-1….Providence beats the last undefeated team in the AHL in Utica 2-0. Manny Lagace has an AHL leading three shutouts for the Bruins….Springfield blitzkriegs Hershey 8-1….Hartford lost in a shootout up in Laval 2-1.
Standings: Hartford 18 — Providence 16 — Springfield 14 — Penguins 11 — Lehigh Valley and Hershey 10 — Charlotte 9 — Bridgeport 5
Wheeling Update: The Nailers were off.
Gameday setup for Saturday’s contest in Springfield hits the blog Saturday at 3.
Let’s Go Pens!