|Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Score Six Times in Third Period to Rally for 7-4 Win Over Penguins
Philly Wins East Division Finals in Five Games
Friday, May 13, 2005
By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent
The Philadelphia Phantoms scored a team-record six goals in the third period tonight to rally for a 7-4 victory and a four-games-to-one win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Game Five of the East Division Finals.
Philadelphia avenged last year's six-game defeat to the Penguins in the division finals and advanced into the conference finals for the first time since 1999. The Phantoms will host Games One and Two of the Eastern Conference Finals next Friday and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the Wachovia Center against either the Providence Bruins or Lowell Lock Monsters.
Jeff Carter and Jon Sim each tallied a pair of goals in the third period, while Ryan Ready finished the night with a goal and two assists. Patrick Sharp and rookie Mike Richards each chipped in two points as Philadelphia improved to 6-0 at home this postseason.
"We showed a lot of resolve tonight," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "We won (an AHL record) 17 games in a row (during the regular season) with this team and not just any group can do that. I think it's a special group with so many contributors."
After Tomas Surovy extended the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton lead to 4-1 at the 37-second mark of the third period, Josh Gratton began Philadelphia's comeback exactly eight minutes later. R.J. Umberger assisted on Gratton's second playoff goal - a wrister into the lower left corner.
"That was one of the best (comebacks) that I've ever seen or ever been a part of," said Richards. "When Gratton scored that goal, it just lifted the bench and everyone got excited. Even though we were still behind a couple of goals, when Gratton scored, you could sense the confidence on the bench that we could do this."
A goaltender interference call on Ramzi Abid put Philadelphia on the power play and Carter narrowed the deficit to 4-3 at 11:45 when he slammed in the puck from the side of the net. Sharp had a pretty centering pass to begin the scoring sequence, while Ready also had an assist.
The Phantoms continued the pressure and evened the score just 64 seconds later on Sim's wrister from out top. Boyd Kane and John Slaney set up Sim's fifth goal.
With the crowd in a frenzy, Ready followed in the rebound of a Wade Skolney shot at 13:56 to put the Phantoms on top 6-5. Sharp also received an assist on the goal that forced Penguins netminder Andy Chiodo out of the game in favor of Marc-Andre Fleury.
The change in net did not help Wilkes-Barre, however, as Carter tallied his second of the period from Ready at 17:20 and Sim tallied an empty netter with just under four seconds remaining to cap the miraculous rally.
"This year, (the goals) have been hard to come by," said Ready, who has nine points in his last eight games. "Any time I can contribute, it's a bonus. My job out there is to work hard and create room for those two young kids (Sharp & Carter) who are doing a super job for us here in the playoffs. Any time you can contribute a big goal like that, it's special."
"Once the momentum changed, it was hard to get it stopped," added Stevens. "We looked tired for two periods and they had energy and then in the third they looked tired and we had energy."
The six goals in the third period broke the club record of five, which was accomplished on two occasions. Philadelphia's 21 goals in the series also obliterated the previous team record of 13 for match-ups that last five games, while the club's six-game home win streak is a new playoff record.
Antero Niittymaki started in goal for the Phantoms and was pulled after the team fell behind 4-1. Neil Little came on and stopped both shots he faced in over 13 minutes of action before Niittymaki returned when the Phantoms assumed a 5-4 lead. Niittymaki finished with 20 saves and Little finished with the victory.
Chiodo stopped 22-of-27 shots, while Fleury ended the night with one save.
Phantoms defenseman Wade Skolney was sent off for high sticking just nine seconds into the game, but it was Philadelphia that took a 1-0 lead at the 49-second mark. Ben Stafford began the sequence by stealing the puck at center ice and feeding Richards, who put a move on Chiodo to score shorthanded for the second game in a row.
Richards now has three goals and seven points in his first five professional games, and is already tied for second on Philadelphia's all-time list for shorthanded goals (2) in the playoffs.
Wilkes-Barre answered 39 seconds later while still on the power play, as Tomas Surovy flipped the puck past Niittymaki during a scramble in front to make it 1-1. Michel Ouellet and Erik Christensen assisted on Surovy's first postseason goal.
Things calmed down for the next 17 minutes until a bad clearing pass by Philadelphia's Freddy Meyer went straight to Matt Murley, who launched a long wrister into the top right corner of the net. It was Murley's third goal of the playoffs.
The Penguins used another power-play goal by Kris Beech to assume a 3-1 lead at 11:52 of the second stanza.
Phantoms Notes: Joey Hope, David Printz, Charlie Cook, Todd Fedoruk, Ben Eager and Tony Voce were scratched ... Carter has a five-game point streak (5G, 2A) ... Philadelphia is a combined 11-1 this season when playing at the Wachovia Center ... A different Phantom has scored the game-winning goal in Philadelphia's eight postseason victories.