Phantoms 3, Bruins 2: The AHL playoffs kick off with a big win for Lehigh Valley
The Phantoms take game 1 in the best of 5 series.
A slow start by the Phantoms saw them being out-shot 10-1 halfway through the first period, but on the back of a strong performance in net by Alex Lyon and two goals from Danick Martel, they were able to win game one and take a series lead.
About four minutes in the first real dangerous shot of the game came off a James de Haas turnover behind the net. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson took the puck, and took the shot right in front of Alex Lyon, who made a huge save.
Things got a bit nerve wracking with fourteen and a half minutes left when a Providence point shot hit a body on the way to the net and almost goes in. That one would’ve stung.
The Bruins had a great breakaway chance but James de Haas takes a holding penalty to stop the chance. On the ensuing power play, the Bruins had one really good chance, a shovel shot in front off of a fantastic set up by Kenny Agostino, but Lyon either got a piece of the shot or the shot missed the net. You couldn’t really tell for sure.
During that penalty kill Reece Willcox left the game after blocking a shot. He took a shot from the point seemingly off his foot and hobbled off the ice and down the tunnel. He did later return to the game in the 2nd period.
About four minutes later Brennan got high-sticked by Agostino and the Phantoms headed to their first power play of the night.
Things didn’t go as planned on the power play, as the best chance was a Bruins 2-on-1 shorthanded chance where Lyon had to make a great blocker save.
The Phantoms only shot on goal, and really only scoring chance, was a Danick Martel wrap around attempt. It wasn’t great!
Following a fantastic opportunity to score, Greg Carey took a hooking penalty, once again sending the Phantoms back on the penalty kill.
They were doing very well on the kill in terms of blocking passing lanes and clearing the puck, that is, up until the goal was scored. Ryan Fitzgerald took the puck down low, shot low, and the puck squeaked through Alex Lyon’s 5-hole to give Providence a 1-0 lead.
Just 16 seconds after that goal, Danick Martel throws a shot towards that somehow wound up in the net. Seriously, I have no idea how it went it, they didn’t show a replay. It was a weird goal, it was a lucky goal, but hey they all count the same.
On the very first shift of the second period Cole Bardreau got called for a slashing penalty, but thankfully the Bruins didn’t do much with it.
However, a shift or two after the penalty was killed, Chris Conner couldn’t corral the puck in the neutral zone, the Bruins stole it, and skated towards the Phantoms net with a 2-on-1 opportunity. Austin Czarnik decided to show off why he had as many points as he did with a beautiful spin around pass to Fitzgerald, who scored, giving him his second goal of the game and giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
After a bit of a lull, Martel continued to do what he does best, which is use his speed to make space and take plenty of shots. None of the shots were all that dangerous, but it was nice to see the Phantoms control the play for a good chunk of time.
Then Corban Knight took a tripping penalty which sent the Phantoms to the penalty kill for the fourth time tonight, a penalty kill that were lucky to survive. The Bruins had some incredible passing plays and a great chance on a redirection, but Lyon held down the fort and the Phantoms were able to kill it off. They may not have scored on it, but it was clearly the Bruins most dangerous power play opportunity of the game.
Just after Knight’s penalty expired, Tyrell Goulbourne drew a holding penalty on Forsbacka Karlsson, sending the Phantoms to their own power play.
Their best chance on the power play came from Colin McDonald, but it was pretty uneventful in the end. McDonald had thought he scored a goal, hit post, then Czarnik almost scores shorthanded, off the post
Ah look at that, the Penguins just scored on the Flyers. Yes I am also watching the Flyers game, no I don’t know why I’m doing that to myself. (ha, little did you know at the time that they’d actually WIN that game.)
Okay re-focus, back to the Phantoms.
Cole Bardreau was on the receiving end of a huge hit behind the Bruins net and he headed down the tunnel. Much Like Willcox earlier, he did eventually return to the game.
The nastiness continued on the very next shift! Mark Friedman got rocked by a huge hit behind the Phantoms net and Adam Payerl – if that name rings a bell, it’s because it’s the same guy that Nicolas Aube-Kubel injured in a game and got suspended for doing so – got called for kneeing.
Early into the Phantoms’ power play, Phil Varone got knocked into the boards, and while I’d call it boarding, the refs went with cross-checking. Not that it really matters.
What does matter is the Phantoms were going on a 5-on-3 power play down by two goals. At that point of the game it wasn’t really a must-score moment, but the Phantoms were presented with a huge opportunity to take some momentum and they took full advantage. Greg Carey took a one-timer from the left point and his shot beat McIntyre, hit the post, and went in the net to tie the game up at 2.
Thanks to their quick work on the 5-on-3, the Phantoms immediately went on a 5-on-4 power play following Carey’s goal and suddenly, thanks to a Danick Martel snipe, the Phantoms had a 3-2 lead! That’s right, they scored on the 5-on-3 power play AND the 5-on-4 power play that followed. Not sure how often that happens.
As the period comes to an end there’s a mini scrum at center ice and – somehow – Nicolas Aube-Kubel winds up with the only penalty. This sends the Phantoms to the penalty kill for the fifth time tonight.
Lehigh Valley started the 3rd period on the penalty kill, a period that didn’t have a whole lot happen for the first 10 minutes.
The penalty kill was a little shaky, but some good goaltending and a few missed shots allowed the Phantoms to once again bend, but not break.
This period was all Bruins. Seriously, all Bruins. The shots wound up being 15-2 in favor of Providence.
After a couple of big saves by Lyon while the Phantoms were trapped in their own zone, Phil Varone was able to draw penalty on Fitzgerald, giving the Phantoms a big chance to grab the momentum back. However, almost immediately following the faceoff, Corban Knight took a tripping penalty, ending the power play.
Something that I think the Phantoms have struggled at all season is playing 4-on-4 hockey and, as expected, the Bruins dominated. It was at this point of that game that it became clear to me that Austin Czarnik was the most dangerous player on the ice. His line had tons of scoring chances and shots tonight.
Providence continued to throw shot after shot at the net with just under six minutes to go, but there was nothing all that dangerous. After a missed point shot Peter Cehlarik had a great opportunity at the net but Lyon, coming up huge yet again, poked the puck off his stick.
Things got a bit scary with 4:19 left in the game, as T.J. Brennan got called for cross-checking. Yet another power play for the Bruins, and you knew they were going to throw everything they had at you.
Thanks to two great clears by Max Lamarche, and one more solid save by Lyon, it was time for Brennan to return as we headed back to 5-on-5 action.
With two minutes left in the game, and a defensive zone faceoff, Scott Gordon shook up the lines a bit and went with the 5-man unit of Knight, Varone, McDonald, Myers, and Willcox. With 1:31 left in the game, the Bruins pulled goaltender Zane McIntyre in an attempt to tie the game late.
After two back-to-back stops by Lyon, one off a point shot and the other off a rebound that followed, he covered the puck with 1:19 left.
The same unit that was on the ice at the two minute mark remained on the ice, except for Myers, who was replaced by Lamarche. Myers being the lone player to leave the ice was not that much of a surprise given that this was his first game back from injury.
From then on, it was pretty much smooth sailing for the Phantoms. Not many high quality chances were sent Lyon’s way and although they failed to hit the empty net twice, it didn’t matter, they were taking the game by a final score of 3-2 and a 1-0 series lead.