|Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Clinch Playoff Berth with 4-2 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Sunday, April 3, 2005
By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent
The Philadelphia Phantoms clinched a playoff berth and took over first place in the AHL's East Division with a 4-2 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum.
Dennis Seidenberg had a hand in every score, recording a goal and three assists, while R.J. Umberger and Ben Stafford contributed two points apiece. Antero Niittymaki stopped 30-of-32 shots to notch the victory.
Philadelphia (44-22-3-4, 95 points) won for the sixth time in its last seven games and captured its fifth straight home game to move one point ahead of Binghamton for first place in the division. The Phantoms have seven games remaining in the regular season, while the Senators have six.
Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 27 saves for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which lost its sixth game in a row and had a four-game win streak over the Phantoms come to an end. The Penguins ended the season series winning six of 10 match-ups vs. Philadelphia, however.
Philadelphia struck first for the third night in a row as Riley Cote wristed in a pass from Stafford at the 2:28 mark of the opening period. Seidenberg also assisted on Cote's fourth goal of the year.
Seidenberg widened the gap to 2-0 with 5:33 to go in the first with his 12th goal and fifth power-play marker. John Slaney took a feed from Umberger on the play and slid the puck along the blue line to Seidenberg, who uncorked a long slap shot that sailed over Fleury's shoulder.
"I think the last six weeks, he's (Seidenberg) really come on and played as good as I've ever seen him play," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "It's nice to see him have a big game. He's such a well-conditioned guy on our team and tireless worker, so it's not surprising he has a strong game after (four games in five nights)."
The lead grew to 3-0 just 33 seconds into the second stanza when Umberger buried his 18th goal during a 3-on-2 rush. Ryan Ready got the puck to Umberger in the neutral zone just before being checked into the boards and the rookie center used Jon Sim as a decoy before depositing the puck top shelf.
Wilkes-Barre rallied to draw within 3-2 thanks to goals by Tomas Surovy and Shane Endicott later in the middle period. Michel Ouellet assisted on both, including Endicott's power-play score with 2:43 remaining.
Rookie Tony Voce then sealed the win at 13:11 of the third period when he slammed in a cross from Stafford. It was Voce's 22nd goal and team-best 10th on the power play.
"This was key, we wanted to beat them in regulation," said Phantoms forward Eric Meloche, a former Penguin. "They came close at the end but we stayed composed and didn't panic like we did before. We were both tired, but I think we played our system better than they did and played them physically hard, which got them off their game."
The Phantoms finished 2-for-3 with a man advantage and have now tallied at least four goals in each of their last seven games.
Philadelphia plays at Norfolk on Wednesday before returning home to take on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Friday at 7:05 p.m. Next weekend also includes a game in Hershey on Saturday and a 6:05 p.m. home contest vs. the Albany River Rats on Sunday.
Phantoms Notes: Joey Hope, Boyd Kane and David Printz were scratched ... Seidenberg recorded the third four-point performance by a Phantom this season, joining Stafford and Patrick Sharp ... Sharp played in his 200th game as a pro ... Sim had his nine-game point streak halted ... Umberger has 12 points (2G, 10A) in his last eight games ... Niittymaki has won eight of his last 10 starts ... The Phantoms have reached the playoffs eight times in their nine-year history.