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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Lose 3-2 to Penguins

Sunday, February 27, 2005

By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

Shane Endicott's shorthanded goal with 3:37 remaining was the difference tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins posted a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phantoms in front of a crowd of 12,147.

Philadelphia trailed 2-0 entering the final period before Freddy Meyer and Ben Stafford scored 2:18 apart early on to even the score. Penguins center Erik Christensen was then sent off for tripping at 14:47 to set up the decisive power play.

The Phantoms pressured Wilkes-Barre during the man-advantage situation, but Colby Armstrong and Ryan Whitney were able to clear the zone and find Endicott streaking down the near boards. The center darted in alone on Phantoms goaltender Antero Niittymaki and netted his 18th goal and third game-winner of the year.

Niittymaki was pulled for a sixth attacker with 61 seconds to play and Philadelphia came close a few times, including former Penguin Eric Meloche getting robbed from in front by Wilkes-Barre netminder Marc-Andre Fleury.

Matt Murley and Matt Hussey each recorded a goal and an assist for Wilkes-Barre, which took a 4-3 lead in the 10-game season series. Fleury finished with 29 saves.

Patrick Sharp registered two assists and Niittymaki had 25 saves for Philadelphia, which had won five of its last six games.

Following a scoreless opening period, Wilkes-Barre twice scored a goal with one second left in a power play to take a 2-0 lead. Hussey put the Penguins on the board at 4:34 of the second stanza when he slammed in a centering pass by Murley. Ryan VandenBussche also assisted on Hussey's seventh goal of the year.

Murley tallied his 17th goal on a similar play with 5:16 to go in the second to make it 2-0. Michel Ouellet and Hussey set up the goal as Phantoms defenseman Randy Jones was about to exit the penalty box.

Meyer cut the deficit to 2-1 at 2:04 of the third when Sharp fed him from behind the net. It was Meyer's fifth goal of the season and first since Nov. 26.

Just over two minutes later, Sharp led a 2-on-1 rush, as he centered the puck to Stafford for a one-timer past Fleury. Ryan Ready also assisted on Stafford's 11th goal.

"The problem was we didn't come close to playing hard enough during the first 40 minutes," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "We played with a lot more energy and won a lot more puck battles in the third period, and had we played 60 minutes like that, we wouldn't have been in that situation (down 2-0) to begin with."

The Phantoms are back home on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. vs. the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Next weekend, Philadelphia plays in Bridgeport on Friday, travels to Wilkes-Barre on Saturday and hosts the Penguins again on Sunday at 5:05 p.m.

Phantoms Notes: Joey Hope, Stephen Wood and Mark Murphy were scratched ... Ben Eager completed his two-game AHL suspension ... The Phantoms have only allowed two first-period goals in their last 10 games ... Jones played in his 100th game as a Phantom ... Philadelphia lost for the first time in seven tries on Feb. 27 (4-1-2).

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