Photo: Steve Kuzma/Flyerdelphia
Points are the name of the game for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Tonight they got one, but it easily could have been two.
The Phantoms failed to score on a four-minute power play in overtime, and the Hartford Wolf Pack won the shootout, 2-0, to collect a 3-2 victory at PPL Center on Friday night.
Most AHL games can be penalty fests, but referee Peter MacDougall "let the boys play," as they say. When it looked like the first period might go scoreless, Danick Martel potted his team-leading 19th of the season at 18:45 of the first period. Davis Drewiske took a wrist shot down low, and while Hartford's Magnus Hellberg made the save, Martel fired home the rebound while charging the net. Aaron Palushaj picked up the secondary assist.
While the Phantoms took the lead to the locker room, it wouldn't last. Shawn O'Donnell forced a turnover behind the net, and Chris McCarthy found the puck. Much like Martel's goal, Nick Tarnasky crashed the slot and put the puck past Anthony Stolarz. Time of the goal was 5:23.
Phil DeSimone took a slashing penalty in the final minute of the second, and Hartford took a lead on the ensuing man-advantage.
1:28 into the third, Travis Oleksuk deflected a Mat Bodie shot from center point as he screened Stolarz and suddenly the Wolf Pack had a 2-1 lead.
But as has been the case lately, the Phantoms didn't quit. After Ryan Bourque basically accosted Taylor Leier in a fought, Colin McDonald earned his 11th of the season in from the near side circle off of a feed from Chris Conner at 10:11.
After Oleksuk took a double-minor for high sticking 1:05 into the extra session, many thought the Phantoms would end the game. Instead, they barely managed a set up in the offensive zone.
In the shootout, Nicklas Jensen and Brian Gibbons used filthy moves to beat Stolarz, while Hellberg stopped Leier and Petr Straka missed the net on his attempt, earning the extra point for Hartford.
Notes: Forward Tim Brent, out the last few weeks following wrist surgery, will be re-evaluated Monday. He is targeting a mid-March return. Prior to the game, forward Pavel Padakin was reassigned to the Phantoms' ECHL affiliate, the Reading Royals. Dalton Smith, who signed with Lehigh Valley earlier in the week, was a healthy scratch.
Quotes: Head coach Scott Gordon, with the glass half-full approach: "It was a huge point for us. There were a couple of near-misses in OT. If the puck goes an inch the other way, the guys were trying to make plays. We were looking at a four by six and it didn't happen. To get that point was huge."
On moving to tomorrow versus Utica: "When it's all said and done, we have four games where we haven't lost in regulation so to get points in that many games is a stride in the right direction. Now we just have to maintain it through the weekend. "
Taylor Leier on his "fight": "I asked him what he was doing and he said I ran him. I just finished my check on him but what can you do, that's the game. I was surprised. I was just waiting for the whistle, and then I got hit and he started punching me so I just tried to tie him up and take him down. Hoping we would get a power play out of it and we did, and we tied it up."
3 Stars: 3) LV-Danick Martel (Goal) 2) HAR-Magnus Hellberg (35 Saves, Win) 1) HAR-Brian Gibbons (Game-winning Shootout Goal)
Up Next: The Utica Comets come to town Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
Brent Baldwin is Lehigh Valley Phantoms beat writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @BBFlyerdelphia.