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Phantoms 5, Checkers 1: Back on top!

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My, my, my, how the tables have turned.

Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils
Alex Lyon, pictured above during a February Flyers game, stopped 19 of 20 shots in tonight’s victory.
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Well hello there, everybody! It’s Tuesday, we survived back to backs over the weekend, and the Phantoms are back at it again! They’ve traveled down for a stretch of games in Charlotte (that’s a hard “ch” in that pronunciation *cough* William), with the series tied at one a side, and Lehigh Valley was looking to get back on track and set a new tone.

The Phantoms had a rough, rough game on Saturday, and we were looking for them to start strong, and just not mess anything up. And things were almost very bad there, as, inside the first minute of play, Lamarche was left to defend a two on one. It could have gone very badly, but the shot from the doorstep went just over Lyon’s shoulder

And the Phantoms cannot get out of their own zone. It’s Charlotte bringing all of the pressure and the Phantoms are just trying to weather it. Yikes.

But perhaps we spoke too soon! Finally breaking out of their own zone and getting ready to put up their first shots of the evening, it was Carey with the initial which bounced back and Vecchione there to collect on the rebound, and it was a Good Hockey Goal for the Phantoms. Whew. Okay. No matter how this goes the rest of the way, the Phantoms will not get shut out again. Baby steps.

And then we had some quiet, but a bit more activity! Are you picking up on a theme here? The Phantoms spend a bit of time in their own zone and then only need one chance on the breakout to increase their lead. This time it was Vorobyev to Martel on the rush

But wait, there’s more! Back in the offensive zone, the Phantoms are bringing the pressure in droves, and had a chance to push their lead to 3, from a Morin shot in close, but alas, it was blocked.

And then we’ve got more still! Chances on chances! After a shift caught in their own zone and a failed clear keeping them in a little longer, it was Martel again to gain possession and break out of the zone, this time on the breakaway! He was flying, folks, but his shot just wouldn’t go.

Momentum looked to be swinging Charlotte’s way after this, as they got to back to work in the Phantoms’ zone, and it took some big work from Lyon to bail them out—a shot from the slot was blocked with the right pad, and then the puck smothered on the next shift after the Checkers generated some traffic in front.

Things were quiet for, uh, a long time there. But then inside the last few minutes of the period, we had some Drama. It was more of that traffic in front and Lyon making a huge sprawling save, and Brennan getting a few uncalled crosschecks in to clear out the crease, and then everybody got involved. A big scrum formed, was broken up, and somehow we didn’t get any penalties. We haven’t had any penalties all period. That seems weird. But let’s move on.

It was all Phantoms from there, with them getting back to work in the Checkers’ zone. We had a chance in close for Myers and then a turnover by Nedeljkovic gave McDonald a chance on the wide open net, but it sailed wide. Big sigh.

And with one more chance for the Checkers, and one more big save by Lyon, we went off for the first intermission.

AFTER ONE: Phantoms 2, Checkers 0

And we’re back! The second period started much like the first, with Charlotte gaining initial possession and hemming the Phantoms into their own zone, but finding themselves unable to capitalize. It was a bit of pressure, and a shot that sailed wide of the net, and the Phantoms collected the puck and cleared.

From here we hit a bit more back and forth, but not a lot of high activity. We didn’t even see that many shots—just moving back and forth between zones and breaking up plays, then zipping off in the other direction. That’s about it.

And now… okay guys, I have no idea what’s happening right now. We’ve got a whistle and our broadcaster is talking about Bardreau and a hand pass. Someone is going to the box. I can’t tell who it is any no one’s announcing it. The ref is dancing at center ice (no, I’m not joking). And play is going on, it looks like a Checkers power play, but our broadcaster is still talking about hand passes. No one is acknowledging it. And the Checkers are cycling and Zykov has a goal. I just…sure. Okay.

(They eventually clarified. It was Krushelnyski who closed his hand on the puck. That’s what happened).

But while we were working all that out, good news came! The Phantoms found themselves back on the rush and it was Myers to Conner with Vecchione coming down the middle, but Conner had space to work with, and took the shot and scored the goal. The Phantoms had the two goal lead again and we are back to being extra excited! Are you excited?

But less exciting was what came next. Carey took a slashing call and the Checkers got a bit of 6-on-5 time on the delayed call, and then we had to watch another penalty kill. This one, as it turned out, did not go so poorly as the last.

And now the Phantoms have a power play chance of their own! The Checkers were called for Too Much Man and the Phantoms have a chance to do a thing! They haven’t been good on the power play, so far this series, so let’s see how they do here.

Spoiler: pretty well! It looked not so great for a while there—outside of two shot attempts for Myers, it was a whole lot of nothing—but the second unit was again able to get it done.

Are you surprised? That it was Lindblom collecting a rebound and putting it in from the crease? This is his thing and he’s doing it well. Thank you, Oskar. That’s 4-1 Phantoms.

And it was all Phantoms from there, with another close chance for Conner, and a shot by Lindblom from the angle as time was just about expiring, they capped off the period in a big way. All the pressure. Thanks, pals.

AFTER TWO: Phantoms 4, Checkers 1

And that late period pressure did not carry over to the third. The puck dropped and the Checkers promptly got to work and, after icing the puck, brought it back into the Phantoms’ zone for a dangerous chance. The Phantoms struggled to do much of anything through those first few minutes—the big thing they failed to do being clear the puck—and we started to sweat a little bit. We’ve seen them sit back like this before, and it’s been ugly. Those first few minutes were the Alex Lyon show, as he worked to fend off the Charlotte onslaught.

It wasn’t until about four and a half minutes into the period that the Phantoms got their first chance—McDonald, thank you—and then it was another for Vecchione,

Yep, you guessed it, another power play for the Checkers, this time from a slash by Martel. It was a bit of pressure from the Checkers, but they couldn’t seem to get anything to go, and the Phantoms did well to break up their attempts. And then! With time getting close to expiring on the power play, Lyon came way out of the net and left a lot of space to work with. They almost saw it exploited, too, were it not for Wilcox making a diving save and blocking the shot on the goal line, behind Lyon. Somehow it was no goal. Penalty killed. Oh my.

And we’re doing more of that back and forth thing, and now we’re just kind of hoping for something to happen. That something was almost a huge save on Fleury, but the shot on goal was not a full shot on goal, but instead rang off the post. Almost drama, but not quite. I’ll take it, I guess.

It was some more back and forth, and then another something, but a something of the less than ideal variety. It was Carey going to the box for interference, and that would be another penalty kill showing for the Phantoms. It started off not so bad, though, with Bardreau for the shorthanded chance. But that was about as good as it got for the duration of the penalty—the Checkers pulled the goalie for a 6-on-4 for the last minute and a half. Lyon saved the day (and, you know, the goal) again, and the Checkers came up without the conversion.

And then! Complete pantomime! With the penalty just expired and Smith not back to his goal yet, Carey intercepted the puck at the blue line and headed into Charlotte’s zone to put it in the empty net. But he didn’t make it there, instead he was tackled (no, I’m not kidding) to break up the play. But it was Lindblom to the rescue again, collecting the loose puck and knocking it into the still empty net.

And this was just about it, friends. A crosscheck by Fleury sent the Phantoms to the power play to close out the period. With just about a minute and a half to go, they kept up on the attack, but couldn’t get one more to close it out. Oh well.

FINAL: Phantoms 5, Checkers 1

Series: 2-1 Phantoms