By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
Every point is critical in the Lehigh Valley Phantoms playoff run, especially with so many teams close together in the Atlantic Division. The Phantoms appeared on their way to one point in the standings already when the captain earned the second one with time winding down in regulation.
Colin McDonald's goal with 1:56 remaining broke a tie and gave the Phantoms the win on Saturday afternoon in Hartford with a 3-1 victory over the Wolf Pack.
Following a scoreless first period, the Phantoms finally got the first goal of the game at 6:32 of the second. A lead pass from T.J. Brennan sent Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Chris Conner on a 2-on-0 breakaway. Aube-Kubel fed Conner with a cross-ice pass for the easy tip-in goal.
After 40 minutes, the Phantoms remained in front by the one-goal margin, despite being outshot by the Wolf Pack, 22-17.
Six minutes into the third, Hartford cashed in on a chance. A turnover in the slot led to a quick passing play that was finished off by Matt Carey with his 15th goal of the season to tie the game.
That set the stage for a dash to the finish. With 1:56 to play, Cole Bardreau set up a cutting McDonald with a pass. McDonald had just entered the zone and upon receiving the pass skating toward the near corner before lifting a high shot past Brandon Halverson for the go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal.
Scott Laughton added an empty-net goal with 1.3 seconds remaining to seal the win, giving the Phantoms back-to-back wins on the weekend.
Alex Lyon made 32 saves in goal to pick up the win. Halverson stopped 30 shots in the loss.
The Phantoms moved into a tie for second place in the Atlantic Division with 75 points with Providence idle for the night. The Phantoms are also now four points out of the division lead as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton lost to Hershey. The Phantoms also have a game in hand on both teams.
The Phantoms meet the Providence Bruins for another matinee on Sunday at 3 p.m.