(Tommy Hendricks/Sports Talk Philly)
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms fell to the Syracuse Crunch, 5-4, in overtime on Wednesday night, but ultimately gained a huge point in the standings on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to inch closer to first place in the Atlantic.
The Phantoms rallied from down 2-0 to take a 3-2 lead, before giving up a 4-3 lead in the dying moments of the third to force overtime. It was from there Syracuse escaped with the victory in extra time.
The Phantoms and the Crunch battled to a fairly evenly matched first period. The Phantoms held the advantages in power play opportunities and shot attempts, but Syracuse was able to get on the board first. Slater Koekkoek tallied his second goal of the season off a cross-ice feed from Kevin Lynch. Lynch sent the pass from the bottom of the near-side circle to the far-side dot, catching Alex Lyon sprawling back to attempt a save. Koekkoek's one timer got passed the rookie netminder, and made it 1-0.
Syracuse kept their momentum going into the second, gaining an early power-play chance after a slashing call to Tyrell Goulbourne. The Crunch did not convert while up a man, but only 10 seconds after the penalty expired, John Kurtz tapped in a rebound while falling to make it 2-0.
Then the floodgates opened the other way. Radel Fazleev stole the puck at center ice and skated into the Crunch zone, and proceeded to pick a corner behind Mike McKenna to cut the lead in half just two minutes after the second Syracuse goal. Animosity picked up from there, resulting in two Phantoms power plays.
On the first one, Danick Martel scored on with just two seconds left, taking a centering pass from a spinning Colin McDonald and burying it to tie the game. Exactly a minute later, Andy Miele one-timed a beautiful feed from Chris Conner home to give the Phantoms their first lead of the night.
Syracuse tied the game just under half way through the third. Mike McNamee skated around behind the Phantoms net, and came out the near side. He centered a pass across the blue paint, right to Lynch for an easy tap in behind Lyon.
Syracuse got a big power play opportunity just 40 seconds after their tying goal, but the Phantoms 8th ranked penalty kill was up to the task to keep the game knotted at three. Lehigh Valley would break the tie with just over two minutes left.
Mark Alt unloaded a shot from the point that got to the front of the net. Martel tipped it, changing its direction just enough to give McKenna an issue. The deflection made the Syracuse goalie bobble the puck, and it ended up sneaking across the line to give the Phantoms the lead.
That lead would last a minute. With McKenna off for the extra attacker, Sam Morin took a bad penalty behind the Phantoms net. On the ensuing faceoff, a point shot from Matt Taormina found its way through bodies to give the Crunch a power play tally and tie the game to force overtime.
Former Phantom Tye McGinn eventually ended up with the game-winning goal, flying down the far side wing and picking a low corner on Lyon to end Wednesday night's contest.
The Phantoms picked up a valuable standings point on idle Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and move to within just three points of the Penguins for first place in the Atlantic Division.
The Phantoms next game is against those Penguins on Friday night at PPL Center at 7:05 p.m.
- Despite having a stellar rookie campaign, extra time seems to be Alex Lyon's kryptonite. The young netminder is now 3-8 in games that go past regulation time.
Danick Martel on the point earned tonight and the big weekend ahead: "We didn't deserve the two points at the end. Maybe one, but not two. We didn't play like a team that wanted two points. It's an eight-point weekend. Every game is a four-point game. It's a playoff weekend. For the fans, for us, and for them. So we need to be ready, there's only 15 games left in the season. I think we just need to play well every night, because those kind of games can't happen during the playoffs. I think on Friday night, it'll be a good test for them and for us, so I think we'll get a good game."