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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms' Resume Winnning Ways with 3-2 Shootout Win over Penguins

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

The Philadelphia Phantoms got back in the win column tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum as Ben Stafford converted two attempts during a shootout to lift the team to a 3-2 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

After having its AHL-record 17-game winning streak snapped on Sunday in Syracuse, Philadelphia found itself knotted at 2-2 through regulation tonight. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's Ryan Whitney was called for tripping 19 seconds into overtime, but the Phantoms could not beat Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury during the 4-on-3 situation.

The teams were tied at 2-2 through five rounds of the shootout before Wilkes-Barre's Michel Ouellet and the Phantoms' Jon Sim each scored in the sixth round. Kris Beech was then stopped by Antero Niittymaki leading off the seventh round and Stafford scored on Fleury for the second time in the shootout to give Philadelphia the win.

"It was nice to get the shootout goal," said Stafford. "I thought I might be called with (Patrick) Sharp out of the line-up. I got a little nervous when I got called, but you just have to relax, go out and do whatever you can."

"We thought Stafford would be a great shootout guy," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "He can get a lot of speed and has quick hands, so we put him out there and he came through."

Ryan Ready and Sim each scored in regulation for Philadelphia, which also posted a 3-2 shootout victory over the Penguins on Nov. 12. The Phantoms, who lost to Wilkes-Barre in last year's East Division Finals, have now won the last four regular-season match-ups between the teams.

Niittymaki stopped 25-of-27 shots through three periods and overtime to win for the 13th time in his last 14 starts. The goalie had been named the Phantoms' Toyota Player of the Month for November earlier in the day.

With the win, Philadelphia improved to 12-0 at home this season, which is the longest home winning streak in the AHL since Providence also captured 12 in a row from Dec. 27-Feb. 17 in the 1998-99 season. The Phantoms set the league record of 19 consecutive home wins during the 1996-97 campaign.

Fleury totaled 31 saves for Wilkes-Barre, which has lost four of its last five games overall and five of its last six on the road. The Penguins will host the teams' next encounter on Saturday, Dec. 11.

Following a scoreless opening period, Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead at 4:19 of the second on Ready's third goal of the year. On the power play, Randy Jones fired a long wrister that got blocked in front by teammate Dennis Seidenberg. The rebound kicked out to an oncoming Ready, who placed it past Fleury from between the circles for his first goal since Nov. 5.

Wilkes-Barre evened the score at 1-1 during a 3-on-2 rush later in the period. Shane Endicott entered the Phantoms zone down the far side and centered it to Tomas Surovy, who slid it by Niittymaki at the 8:45 mark. Alain Nasreddine also assisted on Surovy's sixth goal.

Philadelphia re-took the lead 2:15 into the third period when Sim followed in a shot by Tony Voce. R.J. Umberger, who was named the AHL's Rookie of the Month for November this afternoon, also set up Sim's eighth goal of the year and sixth as a Phantom.

Matt Murley knotted the score at 2-2 just over two minutes later, however, with his third goal.

The Phantoms are back in action this Saturday at 7:05 p.m., when they host the Norfolk Admirals at the Wachovia Center. Next weekend, Philadelphia hosts the Hershey Bears on Friday at the Wachovia Center, plays at Wilkes-Barre on Saturday and entertains the Milwaukee Admirals on Sunday at the Wachovia Spectrum.

Phantoms Notes: Patrick Sharp and Wade Skolney sat out due to injuries ... Riley Cote and Boyd Kane were healthy scratches ... Todd Fedoruk returned to action after missing the past 13 games due to a facial injury ... Ben Eager also returned after sitting out six games with a concussion ... Stafford played in his 200th AHL game ... The Phantoms are 3-0 in shootouts this season and 8-2 in one-goal decisions ... Philadelphia is 3-0 all-time on Dec. 1.

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