WILKES-BARRE, TWP. – Casey DeSmith was masterful in net for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, but Alex Lyon – who entered the game 1:32 in after an injury – was just a bit better.
Lyon stopped 33 shots — and then Zach Aston-Reese, Tom Kostopoulos and Oskar Sundqvist during a shootout — to lead the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to a 2-1 win over the Penguins in front of 5,013 at Mohegan Sun Arena on Wednesday night.
The win clinched a playoff spot for the Phantoms, who tied the game at 1-1 in the third thanks to a goal from Taylor Leier and then won it when Corban Knight picked the top corner on DeSmith during the second round of the shootout.
On paper, the game meant nothing to the Penguins, who clinched the Atlantic Division title this past Sunday, but 12 showdowns – including 10 in the final 30 games of the regular season – has bred some bad blood.
“From the outside, I guess it seems like this one didn’t really matter for us, but that’s a team we play a lot,” said DeSmith, who stopped 33 shots and then two of three during his first shootout action all season.
“There are a lot of disagreeable things that have (occurred) on the ice where we don’t like them and they don’t like us. We didn’t want to give them anything tonight and I think that showed with how hard we played.”
The Penguins, who fell to 7-4-0-1 against the Phantoms this season, entered Wednesday night with a 255:48 shutout streak going against Lehigh Valley that stretched back 10 periods of play. It didn’t come to an end until the third period when Leier’s 12th of the season tied the game.
Lyon entered the game after Phantoms starter Anthony Stolarz suffered a lower-body injury trying to get into position to make a save on a Kostopoulos shot that hit the post.
Dominik Simon had the lone Penguins goal early in the third period.
Turning Point: After taking a 1-0 edge in the third, the Penguins took their foot off the gas and spent the rest of the period hemmed into their own zone. At the 13:11 mark, Taylor Leier was able to clean up a rebound and end the shutout streak. The Phantoms carried that momentum into the shootout.
What it means: The Penguins (50-19-3-2, 105 pts.) have now secured at least a point in 10 of their last 11 games. … Wilkes-Barre/Scranton now leads the Atlantic Division by 8 points over the Phantoms (97 pts.), who clinched a playoff spot with the win. …. Around the division: Providence (95 pts.) lost to Springfield; both Hershey (93 pts.) and Bridgeport (92 pts.) were off.
Worth mentioning: The win clinched the Phantoms their first trip to the Calder Cup playoffs since the 2008-09 season. … The Penguins shutout streak against the Phantoms ended at 268:49. … Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finished the year 7-4-0-1 against Lehigh Valley. … Prior to the game, there was a moment of silence for former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins captain Dave Gove, who passed away last week. … Garrett Wilson and Sam Morin dropped the gloves during the first shift of the game. The bout served as a bit of revenge for Wilson, who missed six weeks of action with a separated shoulder that came after a Morin cross check earlier this season. … Teddy Blueger, who assisted on Simon’s 15th goal of the season, leads all Penguins with 10 points (1G-9A) in 11 games against Lehigh Valley. … The shootout loss was just the second this season for the Penguins and the first with DeSmith in net. … Lehigh Valley finished the season 3-3-0-0 at Mohegan Sun Arena. … The Phantoms power play is 0-for-its-last-14 against the Penguins over the last four match-ups and just 6-for-53 overall.
By the numbers: 104 – consecutive saves made by the tandem of Tristan Jarry (56) and Casey DeSmith (48) over the course of the Penguins 268:49 shutout streak against the Phantoms that ended at the 13:11 mark in the third.
Quote: “We knew they needed one point to clinch (a playoff spot) so we were trying to hold them off and make it tough for them,” Garrett Wilson said. “We play these guys so many times that you start to hate them a lot. If we meet them in the playoffs I’m sure it’s going to be intense.”
Up next: The Penguins are off until Friday when they’ll host the Hershey Bears at Mohegan Sun Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.