GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – One of the old clichés in hockey is that you have to play the right way for 60 minutes.
If the Phantoms would have played the right way for a 10-second span in the third period, they very likely would have won their fourth game in a row.
As it is, they didn’t. Instead, they fell victim to taking too many penalties and the strength of their team – the penalty kill – couldn’t pitch a shutout.
It led to the St. John’s Icecaps, the affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets, scoring two power play goals in 10 seconds, the difference in what was a 3-2 Phantoms loss, snapping their three-game win streak.
“Power plays can win you a game and penalty killing can lose you a game and that’s probably the way it played out here tonight,” lamented Phantoms coach Terry Murray.
That’s because Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson took defensive zone penalties 24 seconds apart, creating a two-man-advantage for the Ice Caps, an opportunity that they didn’t pass up.
Paul Postma scored first, on a slapper from the point that clanged off the right post and past Phantoms goalie Scott Munroe to make it 2-1 St. John’s.
Carl Klingburg followed with a re-direction goal 10 ticks later on a 5-on-4 and the Phantoms found themselves stunned that they were down by two goals so quickly in a game that was so tightly played for the first 50 minutes.
“The first penalty (to Bourdon) where the man is coming off his wing and is rolling off the top of the circle and shoots the puck off his backhand, he’s just falling down,” Murray said. “There’s no stick in there.
“[Gustafsson], yeah he reached in there and got a hooking call. But I want to look at what happened on the second goal, it happened so quick, I didn’t even see it.”
Ultimately, it was a situation where the Phantoms took too many penalties. They took seven in all, which was two too many as it turns out.
It’s unfortunate too because the Phantoms (9-9-0, 18 points) came out of the gates on fire. They played a great first period with a lot of pressure. They peppered St. John’s goalie Eddie Pasquale with 12 shots, but the Ice Caps keeper was a great equalizer. He turned aside several great Phantoms chances and got the game to the first intermission in a scoreless tie.
But from there, the Phantoms seemed to lose their way a bit. Despite a goal by Harry Zolnierczyk – his fifth of the season, all coming on home ice – on a shot by Jason Akeson that deflected off of Zolnierczyk’s skate, the Phantoms found themselves running around a bit in their own end as St. John’s changed the flow of the game.
“We changed everything that was working for us in the first period in the second and most of the third,” Zolnierczyk said. “I don’t know if it was that we were getting too fancy or just weren’t making the simple pass, but whatever it was it caused us to play in our defensive zone for quite awhile.”
And the first St. John’s goal was a direct result of skating too much in their own zone.as a shot by Alex Burmistrov caught Munroe up high and the rebound went right to an unmarked Kevin Clark who deposited the puck into an open net.
It made for the score to be tied 1-1 after two periods, but the steady parade to the penalty box didn’t end there.
“It started pretty early in the first with special teams,” said Phantoms captain Ben Holmstrom. “That’s kind of the way those two (Darcy Burchell and Tim Mayer) ref. They call a lot of penalties most of the time. It was something we should have been aware of.
“It’s real easy to get frustrated because there’s not a lot of flow to the game and not a lot of guys get going. A lot of penalties like that makes it tough to get a groove, but it can also swing the momentum of a game.”
Which it did.
It also cost the Phantoms Zac Rinaldo for the night in the first period when Rinaldo was whistled for an elbow to the head of Julian Melchiori that resulted in a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct.
The thing is, Rinaldo didn’t hit Melchiori in the head at all. He caught him clean in the shoulder and Melchiori crashed hard into the glass.
“It was a joke,” Rinaldo said. “They didn’t even see the hit. I hit him shoulder to shoulder. I guess they heard the impact and then saw the blood… It wasn’t even close to what they said. There was no elbow… Their original call was that it was an elbow and then they saw the blood and they thought, ‘it must have been to the head… kick him out.’”
It forced Murray to juggle his third and fourth lines a bit.
Tyler Brown ultimately got most of Rinaldo’s minutes and he played well in his limited time, even creating what would have been a highlight reel goal if his dipsy-do move didn’t just miss the net.
The Phantoms, playing with urgency down two goals, got one back on a nice tip-in goal by Rob Bordson, and almost tied it when Sean Couturier caught the post with a shot from the left wing, but that was as close as the Phantoms would come.
“We have to bring a better effort… everybody,” Bordson said. “We haven’t played with the lead much this season. We always talk about it. We got the first one tonight but they got one right back and then they got two quick ones and made us come to them. It’s hard to score that way.
“We need to bring the play to the other teams. We have to control the game. We have to bring the puck up the ice, move our feet and score big goals. It’s the little things… they just didn’t work for us tonight.”