If you blinked during the second period of Saturday night’s contest, you may have missed the Philadelphia Phantoms take a quick three goal lead over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
If you left after that, you missed one heck of a comeback.
Kurtis McLean scored with 45.4 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime, and Chris Minard buried his second goal of the game 2:07 into the extra frame, giving the Penguins a thrilling 5-4 win in Game Two of the East Division Finals.
The victory evened the series at one game apiece, with Games Three and Four slated for Monday and Wednesday in Philadelphia.
It was the most unlikely of wins. The Phantoms scored three times in a span of 1:17 late in the second period to take a 4-1 lead, but saw the home team rally for three goals in the third to tie the game, before Minard netted his second overtime goal of the postseason to give the Penguins the win.
“There’s a reason for us to probably not be in the game in the third period, but I was real proud of how the guys competed. It easily could have gone the other way,” said head coach Todd Richards. “We kept battling, kept battling, and you never know what’s going to happen. Certainly the guys should feel good about themselves.”
Ryan Potulny and Minard traded goals to make the score 1-1 midway through the game before Boyd Kane scored twice in a span of 1:07 to give the Phantoms a 3-1 lead. And just 10 seconds after Kane’s second, Lars Jonsson beat John Curry with a shot through traffic to give Philadelphia what appeared to be a commanding lead.
“With the exception of two minutes of hockey, about a minute and a half of hockey, we played a pretty decent game,” Richards said of the 77 second lapse. “We didn’t make good plays, we didn’t manage the puck well. They made a couple of plays and shots, they went to the net hard. John didn’t see a couple of the shots.”
Good play or not, falling behind by three goals is hardly the recipe for success.
“Down 4-1, I’m sure everybody in the building thought we were done, the series might have been over,” said Minard. “But we knew in here, we’ve got the guys in here. Just chip away at it. It’s one shot, then it’s the next shot.”
The turn around started 3:36 into the third period, but not without some controversy. Tim Brent grabbed a Kurtis McLean feed in the slot and snapped off a shot that seemingly went into the top left corner of the net and then straight through the twine. After a conference between referee David Banfield and the goal judge, the tally was allowed to stand, cutting the lead to two goals.
“I thought it went in, my arms went up right away,” said Minard, who was the closest player to the goal other than netminder Scott Munroe
. “I don’t know why there was any confusion.”
Rookie Luca Caputi pulled the Pens to within one with less than seven minutes to play, pouncing on a puck in the crease and notching his second goal of the postseason.
“We knew that if we could get one that would motivate the team,” McLean said of the third period resurgence. “You could feel the energy start to build in the crowd. Caputi gets another one, 4-3, and the energy just picked up on the bench.
“We didn’t really change anything, we just kind of upped the tempo a little bit. The crowd plays such a big deal at home, it was nice to see them get on their feet, energize the team.”
It looked like that might be as close as the Penguins would get, though, as Munroe stood tall during a late assault. But, with Curry pulled for the extra attacker, McLean potted his first of the playoffs from the left circle to extend the game. The goal brought the crowd of more than 5,500 to its feet.
The Phantoms had a golden opportunity to end the game quickly, as Tim Wallace was whistled for slashing with 37 seconds remaining in regulation. But the Pens penalty killers were up to the task, holding Philly off the scoresheet for the fifth time in seven power play opportunities on the night.
Less than a minute later, Minard ended the game. He intercepted an attempted clear by a Phantoms defender in the slot, then had plenty of time to wind up and pound home his league-best seventh goal of the playoffs at 2:07.
“Minard, right spot, just picks up the puck and that’s like a guaranteed goal from him,” said McLean.
NOTES: McLean became the second Penguins player to record two overtime goals in postseason play. Alexandre Mathieu was the other...Tim Brent extended his point streak to seven games (7+6=13), while Alex Goligoski pushed his to six (2+9=11)