Friday, April 5, 2013

Penguins 3, Phantoms 2 (OT) 4/5

When the Adirondack Phantoms awoke Friday morning, there was but one team in the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference that had scored fewer goals than they had.

But that team scored one more than them on Friday night.

Alex Grant scored 1:19 into overtime and goalie Jeff Zatkoff made 27 saves as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins handed the Phantoms a 3-2 defeat at Glens Falls Civic Center.

The Penguins (163) and Phantoms (165) entered the game as the two lowest-scoring teams in the Eastern Conference, and played to a near-defensive stalemate through 60 minutes of regulation.

But Grant snapped a 2-2 tie and won the game with a bullet from the top of the slot in overtime, taking advantage of the kind of breakdown that has doomed Adirondack so many times this year.

The Phantoms had just killed off a four-on-three power play, but could not clear the puck out.

As Phantoms defenseman Jeff Dimmen came rushing out of the penalty box, he misread the play and instinctively dropped back to his natural defensive position on the ice. But that penalty kill formation called for Dimmen to stay up top, and that left Grant uncontested at the center point.

Grant wound, fired and drove a shot past Phantoms goalie Brian Boucher to secure the victory.

“They make the rotation up top with a little drop pass, hand-off play and we cycle our three defensemen right back to the front of the net,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said of Dimmen. “That’s just an unfortunate misread. He has to stay up top with the guy who ends up shooting.”

Dimmen, who had the secondary assist on Shane Harper’s third-period, power-play goal that forced overtime, said he was just trying to stay with one guy. He couldn’t explain what happened.

“We battled hard all game,” Dimmen said. “To come down to that and lose in overtime is definitely frustrating. We did some good things in the game. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

Neither team really seized control of the game until Beau Bennett set up Grant’s game-winner.

They combined for just 11 shots in the first period – including just four at even strength – and played more than 25 minutes of scoreless hockey before the Phantoms finally broke through.

Jason Akeson found Garrett Roe on the left wing, and the center fired a shot from the bottom of the face-off circle that snuck through Zatkoff’s five-hole with 5:35 gone by in the second period.

The lead lasted less than four minutes.

Jayson Megna tipped former Phantoms defenseman Joey Mormina’s shot past goalie Brian Boucher with one second left on a Derek Mathers’ roughing penalty at the frame’s 9:06 mark.

The Penguins went up 2-1 in the third period on a breakdown in front of Adirondack’s net.

Riley Holzapfel led a rush into the offensive zone and dropped the pass to Brian Gibbons, who immediately fed it back to Holzapfel in the slot. He swept it past Boucher with 14:01 remaining.

But Harper, whose mother’s family is from the Wilkes-Barre area, knotted it 2-2 with just 6:44 to go by knocking Kyle Flanagan’s cross-ice pass past Zatkoff. It got the Phantoms a standings point, but they could not secure another one. Dimmen may have made misread the play, but the Phantoms also had their penalty killers out for most of the minute-long overtime penalty kill.

“There’s a fatigue factor that becomes a part of a penalty kill always,” said Murray, whose team fell to 28-34-3-3, last in the Eastern Conference. “That’s what you always want to try to make an important part of your power play, is fatigue. That’s what happened. We couldn’t get it out. We had an opportunity, but those situations happen when you’re out there too long."


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