|Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Down Cincinnati 4-2 for Fifth Win in a Row
Wednesday, November 3, 2004
By Al Cohen
Patrick Sharp and Mark Murphy each recorded a goal and two assists as the Philadelphia Phantoms won their fifth straight game with a 4-2 decision over the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum.
Jeff Smith and Ryan Ready both added their first goals of the year and Antero Niittymaki stopped 18-of-20 shots to win his fourth start in a row. After losing its first two games of the season, Philadelphia has captured five consecutive games to move into a first-place tie in the AHL's East Division.
Frederic Cassivi finished with 20 saves for Cincinnati, which had won three of its last four games. The Phantoms are now unbeaten in their last four meetings (2-0-2) with the Mighty Ducks and own a commanding 33-9-5 lead in the all-time series.
Cincinnati opened the scoring 2:07 into the game on Michael Holmqvist's first goal of the year. On the power play, Mark Popovic and Stanislav Chistov worked the puck to Holmqvist, who placed a wrister over Niittymaki's right shoulder.
But Philadelphia answered with a power-play goal of its own just 91 seconds later as Sharp netted his fourth goal on a slap shot from the far circle. Murphy and Joni Pitkanen set up the play, enabling Sharp to remain the only Phantom to record a point in every game this season.
"I am just trying to play my best," said Sharp about his three-point performance. "Coach Stevens pushes the best out of me every night."
The Phantoms took their first lead of the game with 1:56 left in the second period on Smith's power-play goal. R.J. Umberger took the initial shot and Smith deflected it past Cassivi for his first AHL goal since Dec. 20, 2002. Umberger extended his assist streak to four games on the play.
Philadelphia entered the game with the top power-play percentage in the league at 27.3 and went 2-for-5 tonight.
The Phantoms' lead didn't last long, however, as Igor Pohanka netted his first goal 23 seconds into the third stanza to even the score at 2-2. Popovic and Kurtis Foster received assists on the power-play marker.
The score remained the same for almost 11 minutes until Ready followed in the rebound of a Murphy shot at 11:22 to give Philadelphia a 3-2 advantage.
Murphy capped the scoring with 73 seconds remaining off another assist by Sharp. It was Murphy's third goal of the season.
"Guys are getting a lot of opportunities to step up right now and we are doing it," commented Murphy. "We want that pressure and we want to be able to rise up to the pressure during the game. It makes us play better."
The Phantoms continue their season-high four-game homestand on Friday at 7:05 p.m. vs. the Hershey Bears. Philadelphia will be raising its 2003-04 East Division Championship banner prior to the game and holding its first-ever fireworks show after.
Phantoms Notes: Boyd Kane, John Slaney, Eric Meloche and Peter White sat out due to injuries ... Sharp, Ryan Ready and Freddy Meyer served as assistant captains in place of Kane, Slaney and White ... Defenseman Joey Hope made his season debut and played forward ... Todd Fedoruk also made his season debut and got in his first fight just 2:42 into the game ... Sharp has a nine-game point streak dating back to last season ... Ben Eager received a rare triple minor for roughing during a fracas late in the second period ... George W. Bush of Boothwyn, Pa. dropped the ceremonial opening puck ... This is the Phantoms' longest win streak since a six-game streak from March 26-April 3, 2004.