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Lyon Stymies Penguins As Phantoms Pick Up Crucial Win

March 23, 2019

WILKES-BARRE TWP. —Alex Lyon’s gamble in the second period didn’t pay off.

But the goaltender was a safe bet for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the final 20 minutes on Friday.

Lyon made 10 saves in the final frame and helped kill off two key Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins power plays, and Nic Aube-Kubel broke a tie 28 seconds into the frame with his second goal to help the Phantoms post a 3-2 win at Mohegan Sun Arena.

With Providence winning on Friday, the loss puts Wilkes-Barre/Scranton seven points back of fourth place in the Atlantic Division with only 11 games remaining in their season.

“We had some chances, but we just didn’t finish,” Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli said. “Defensively, D-zone coverage, we’ve got to take time and space away from those guys. I think we gave them too much time. But, we battled back. It was a good game, one-goal game.”

The Phantoms entered the game perfect on the penalty kill at Mohegan Sun Arena this season — and best in the league overall — and they shut the door on a pair of man-advantages in the first seven minutes of the third.

The Penguins had a new look on the power play, with Adam Johnson out and defenseman Juuso Riikola making his Penguins debut. But other than a couple booming slappers on their first chance, good chances were hard to come by against the Lehigh Valley kill.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (30-25-7-3) had other near misses, including a backhand drive by Joseph Blandisi with around 10 minutes left and an open chance in the high slot for Jimmy Hayes that Lyon shouldered high and away.

With both teams clawing for points in the playoff chase, the game had expected back-and-forth swings of momentum. The Penguins took the lead 7:06 in when Ryan Haggerty sniped a shot from the faceoff circle past Lyon off a turnover.

After Wilkes-Barre/Scranton controlled the rest of the period, Lehigh Valley (32-27-3-3) pushed back in the second with goals from Aube-Kubel and Chris Conner. The latter’s was particularly pretty, as he zoomed by the outside of defenseman Jeff Taylor and deked to the backhand to beat Tristan Jarry.

“We always know against those guys, it’s going to be a battle,” forward Sam Lafferty said. “We got off to a good start. Just need to make sure we keep playing the right way.”

Lyon helped give the Penguins new life when he came halfway up the Phantoms zone to halt Haggerty’s pursuit of a long outlet pass. However, Sam Miletic intercepted the clearing attempt at the blue line and set up Haggerty on the doorstep before Lyon could ever settle back in the crease.

Haggerty’s tallies gave him 18 total this season, establishing a career high.

With the teams even at two goals and 18 shots entering the third, however, Aube-Kubel quickly put all the pressure on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton by sending the puck past the tangled up Byron Froese and Ethan Prow and through Jarry.

Jarry was making his 12th straight start and made 29 saves overall. With the two teams now tied at 70 points and taking part in a rematch tonight, he seems like an obvious choice to start again.

However, time is running out for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to make a run and tonight’s game now has a do-or-die feel to it.

“That’s how we’re looking at it,” Lafferty said. “It’s definitely a playoff game. We need the two points.”

Contact the writer:

tpiccotti@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2089;

@CVPiccotti on Twitter