Penalties stall Phantoms in weekend opener


Photo: Lisa Gansky/Wikipedia Commons

Early in the season, the biggest issue for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms has been the power play. Coming into Friday's game, the Phantoms were 2-for-17 with the man-advantage.

On Friday, however, the issue was a lack of discipline and penalties. Alex Khokhlachev and Seth Griffith had three assists each as the Providence Bruins went 3-for-4 on the power play as they downed the Phantoms, 5-3, in Providence on Friday night.

Lehigh Valley controlled the play early, at one point leading the shot count, 7-1. Providence found their stride in the second half of the frame, and they got on the board first.

Anton Blidh tallied his first North American goal at 17:41, taking a cross ice pass from the newly demoted Tommy Cross for an easy tap-in at the far post past Phantoms netminder Jason LaBarbera.

The lead did not last, however. Taylor Leier got the Phantoms on the board just 25 seconds into the middle frame. Aaron Palushaj laid a thunderous hit on a Bruin, and the puck squirted to Leier and he snapped it past Providence goaltender Zane McIntyre.

With less than five minutes left in the period, the Bruins seemed to gain the upper hand. With Lehigh Valley's Matt Lashoff in the penalty box for a slash, Providence's Frank Vatrano notched his AHL leading eighth goal of the season.

While crashing the net, Vatrano collected the rebound of a Khokhlachev shot and stuffed it past LaBarbera. After the goal, Phantoms defenseman Mark Alt slammed Vatrano to the ice, causing a major scrum. After players were separated, Alt and Vatrano were given roughing minors. Alt got an extra 2 minutes, and the Bruins made them pay. 

Griffith and Khoklachev again teamed up to set up Colby Cave for his third of the season. Petr Straka pulled the Phantoms to within one with 18 seconds left in the period. Andrew Macdonald took a point shot, Nick Cousins whacked at the rebound, and Straka ultimately pushed the puck past McIntyre.

Lehigh Valley tied the game at 6:42 on the power play. With Max Iafrate in the box, Tim Brent put in a wrist shot from the slot on a drop pass from Leier. Cousins also collected an assist on the play.

Unfortunately, that was as close as the Phantoms would get. Former San Jose Shark Matt Irwin wristed a shot from the slot past LaBarbera off a setup from Vatrano. Cave collected an empty-netter off of a turnover with 50 seconds left to seal the division contest for Providence.

Notes: On Thursday, Lehigh Valley head coach Scott Gordon updated the Phantoms injury situation. Defenseman Robert Hagg could be back Wednesday against the St. John's IceCaps at PPL Center. 

Forwards Cole Bardreau and Danick Martel will be out another two-to-three weeks, while captain Colin McDonald will be out another three weeks, possibly a month.

Jay Rosehill was Lehigh Valley's veteran scratch.

These two teams meet again Saturday night in Allentown.

3 Stars: 3) PRO-Frank Vatrano (Goal, assist) 2) PRO-Seth Griffith (Three Assists) 1) PRO-Matt Irwin

Brent Baldwin is Lehigh Valley Phantoms beat writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @BBFlyerdelphia.

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