|Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Capture East Division Semifinals with 4-2 Win over Norfolk in Game Six
Sunday, May 1, 2005
By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent
Mark Murphy scored the game-winner with 4:59 remaining as the Philadelphia Phantoms rallied to capture their East Division Semifinal series against the Norfolk Admirals with a 4-2 victory tonight in Game Six at the Wachovia Center.
Philadelphia defeated the Admirals in six games in the division semifinals for the second year in a row, and will now face off with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the East Division Finals for the second straight year. The Phantoms are set to host the first two games of the best-of-seven series this Wednesday and Friday at 7:05 p.m. at the Wachovia Center.
"We know they (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) are a dangerous hockey team, obviously beating a team like Binghamton four games straight is saying something about the way they are playing," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "They are going to be a confident group. Much like Norfolk, we didn't win the season series (against them), but we like the way we match up. We think if we elevate our game, we'll have a chance in the series."
Trailing 2-1 through 40 minutes of play, Philadelphia scored three times in the third stanza. Captain Boyd Kane assisted on all three of the goals, including Dennis Seidenberg's equalizer at 4:58 and Murphy's game-winner. Meanwhile, Antero Niittymaki turned aside all eight shots he faced in the third to finish with 28 saves on the night.
Ajay Baines netted both goals for Norfolk, while Craig Anderson made 25 saves for the Admirals, who had won two of three games at home this week to force a Game Six.
Coming off Friday's disappointing 4-1 loss in Norfolk, Philadelphia jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 23 seconds into tonight's game. Ryan Ready's initial shot was blocked on the play, but the puck caromed out to Freddy Meyer, who let fly a wrister from just inside the blue line.
Stationed between the circles, Patrick Sharp was able to deflect the shot past Anderson for his second goal of the postseason and team-leading seventh point.
The score remained the same heading into the second period, when Baines scored twice to put Norfolk on top. Toward the end of a tripping minor on teammate Marty Wilford, Baines outfought Seidenberg for a puck in the Philadelphia zone and uncorked a slap shot that sailed over Niittymaki's left shoulder at the 5:01 mark.
It was the first shorthanded goal of the series.
Baines struck again with 8:06 to go in the period during a Norfolk power play, with assists going to James Wisniewski and Wilford.
Seidenberg knotted the score at 2-2 at 4:58 when his long backhander made its way through a crowd outside the crease and past Anderson.
Making his first appearance of the series, Murphy assisted on the tying goal and then tallied the game-winner at 15:01. Eric Meloche began the sequence with a shot that went wide, but Kane pushed the puck out front from behind the net. Murphy took control with lots of room and easily deposited it past Anderson.
"I missed a bunch of games, but worked out with the assistant coaches and took it as a positive so when I was ready I was in the best shape I can be," said Murphy, who led the Phantoms in scoring during last year's playoffs. "It took me a little while to get back to the pace level, but I felt pretty good."
"We just thought Murphy would bring us energy and some extra scoring," added Stevens. "He's helped us with our offensive production all year and I'm just really proud of him. He stayed on top of his conditioning, kept a good attitude and came in today and was rewarded for his effort."
Norfolk went with a sixth-attacker with 1:29 remaining and Meloche sealed the win with an empty-netter with 3.3 seconds to play.
Phantoms Notes: Joey Hope, David Printz, Charlie Cook, Todd Fedoruk and Tony Voce were scratched ... The start of the game was delayed 40 minutes due to the Philadelphia 76ers' playoff game that went into overtime earlier in the day ... The Phantoms are 5-4 all-time in Game Six of a playoff series ... Jeff Carter had a four-game point streak come to an end.