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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Edge Wilkes-Barre 3-2 in Shootout

Friday, November 12, 2004

By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

Peter White evened the score with 36.2 seconds left in the third period and rookie R.J. Umberger tallied the game-winning shootout goal as the Philadelphia Phantoms notched their eighth straight win with a 3-2 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum.

Antero Niittymaki stopped 23-of-25 shots in 65 minutes of play, but surrendered shootout goals by the Penguins' second and third shooters - Kris Beech and Erik Christensen. Meanwhile, Mark Murphy and Tony Voce failed on Philadelphia's first two attempts, setting up an important attempt by Joni Pitkanen.

The defenseman proceeded to beat Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and Niittymaki used the momentum turn to stuff Shane Endicott on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's fourth try. Patrick Sharp then converted his breakaway to make it 2-2 in the shootout and Niittymaki stopped Tomas Surovy before Umberger squeaked his shot by Fleury for the game-winner.

"I didn't know whether I was going to get a chance to shoot or not, but I did and I'm happy I did," said Umberger. "It's exciting (to be involved in the shootout), especially going last is a lot of pressure, but it's fun. When it's pressure time, it's the best time to be out there."

Philadelphia has now won eight games in a row after losing its first two of the season. The win streak is the Phantoms' longest since they won a club-record nine straight from Dec. 6-27, 1997. Niittymaki is a perfect 6-0 during the streak.

Fleury finished with 32 saves for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which had its five-game win streak come to an end. The teams were meeting for the first time since the Penguins defeated the Phantoms in six games during the 2004 East Division Finals.

"I wasn't sure about this shootout, but it's always nice to get two points against a divisional opponent," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "Niittymaki came up big for us, especially in the second period. I thought R.J.'s line was great and Peter White's line was great. They earned the right to be out there."

Following a scoreless opening period, Wilkes-Barre assumed a 1-0 lead during an odd play at 10:55 of the second. Niittymaki skated behind his net to play the puck, but got tangled up with other players on his way back to the crease. Rob Scuderi knocked the puck to Shane Endicott in the near corner and the center netted his ninth of the year from a sharp angle.

The goal was the first allowed during the second period by Philadelphia in its last six games.

Philadelphia knotted the score at 1-1 thanks to a John Slaney snap shot from the slot 1:31 into the third period. White and Umberger set up the power-play goal, which was Slaney's first of the year.

Wilkes-Barre re-took the lead, however, 36 seconds later on Maxime Talbot's first goal and the score remained the same until Niittymaki was pulled for a sixth attacker with 51 seconds to play in regulation. Pitkanen took the initial shot during Philadelphia's tying goal and White knocked in the rebound at 19:23.

"We could be down by a goal, but we keep going and going and we end up coming back a lot of the time," said White. "It's a credit to all the guys."

The Phantoms are back in action on Saturday when they travel to take on the Binghamton Senators. Philadelphia then returns home on Sunday to play the Norfolk Admirals at 6:05 p.m.

Phantoms Notes: Boyd Kane, Eric Meloche and Todd Fedoruk sat out due to injuries ... Wade Skolney was a healthy scratch ... Philadelphia is off to its first-ever 6-0 start at home. The team began the 1998-99 campaign with a 5-0-1 mark at the Spectrum ... Sharp had his 11-game point streak halted ... Ryan Ready played in his 300th career AHL game ... The Phantoms have won their last three regular-season match-ups vs. the Penguins.

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