Tanner Laczynski scores twice as Phantoms sweep Penguins

Tanner Laczynski scored twice in a come from behind win to send the Phantoms to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs.
Tanner Laczynski scored twice in a come from behind win to send the Phantoms to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs. / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

It didn't come easy to the Phantoms on Friday night. With a 1-0 series lead, they had the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on the brink of elimination. And with back-to-back goals late in the second period, it looked as if the Penguins would force a win or go home third game.

But just like their parent club, the Phantoms showed no quit in their game. They scored three goals in a four-and-a-half-minute span to tie the game and force overtime. Tanner Laczynski was the catalyst of the comeback, tying the game two separate times. His second goal came 34 seconds after Radim Zohorna gave the Penguins the lead once again.

It was a chippy affair throughout as the teams combined for 26 penalty minutes. There were four combined penalties in the first and second periods, while the final period saw five different calls. The Phantoms took three of the first four penalties of the game, but the Penguins didn't score on any of them in the first period.

The Penguins did take an early lead on Valtteri Puustinen's first goal of the playoffs. He would have three points in the eventual loss. The goal came just over two minutes in. That lead held throughout the rest of the first and almost midway through the second. Ronnie Attard scored the first of three power-play goals for the Phantoms. At least someone knows how to score on the man advantage.

Attard's first one-time attempt was stopped by Joel Blomqvist. The rebound was knocked back to Attard by Victor Mete. Attard sent the puck to Rhett Gardner at the point. Gardner returned it to Attard for another one-time attempt and this time he was able to beat Blomqvist to get the Phantoms on the board.

The game would remain tied for almost four minutes before Radim Zohorna scored the first of his two goals. It would come on the power play, the only goal the Penguins would score on the man advantage in five tries. With a faceoff win in the zone, Valtteri Puustinen fired a shot from the point that was tipped by Vinnie Hinostroza. Cal Petersen made the initial save with the pad, but couldn't stop Zohorna on the rebound attempt.

The Penguins would increase their lead to 3-1 almost four minutes later. Jack Rathbone, who tried to get a shot through before the goal, had his attempt blocked. It came to Ville Koivunen who saw Rathbone sneaking into open ice. He managed to get the puck past the stick of Attard. Rathbone ripped the shot past Petersen.

The Penguins had things right where they wanted them. They wanted to bring this game back to home ice. The Phantoms had other things on their mind, though. It started with Emil Andrae on the power-play. Cooper Marody and Olle Lycksell played catch behind the net before Marody sent the puck to Andrae. Andrae skated into the face-off dot and waited out the poke check attempt from Jack St. Ivy. He wired a shot toward the upper right side of the net to cut the deficit to one.

22 seconds later, Laczynski would score his first of two goals to tie the game at 3-3. Skating the puck into the offensive zone, Bobby Brink, Emil Andrae, and Olle Lycksell would pass the puck around the perimeter. On the return feed from Andrae, Brink would fire a shot toward Blomqvist. It would get deflected on the way in by Laczynski. Mardoy was also in front to help create the screen on the Penguins' goaltender.

The tie game would last for less than four minutes as Zohorna scored his second of the night to put the Penguins up 4-3. Hinostroza would bank the puck off the boards to Puustinen. He wired a pass cross-ice through all five Phantoms to Zohorna. Gliding into the shot, he didn't miss the wide-open net after Petersen tried to dive out to stop the shot.

Again, the Phantoms didn't quit. 34 seconds after the Penguins took the lead, the Phantoms answered back. With numbers heading into the zone, Lycksell dropped it back to Louie Belpedio for the shot. When that didn't go, four bodies would hit the boards to the side of the net. Laczynski emerged with the puck and fired a shot over the left shoulder of Blomqvist. Petersen had just gone to the bench for the extra attacker, but the Phantoms didn't need it.

After a wild affair in the third period, this game would need overtime to decide things. With a face-off in the defensive zone, Jacob Gaucher would win it back and allow the Phantoms to bring the puck up ice. Entering the offenszive zone, Gaucher found Brendan Furry in front. His backhand attempt wouldn't go, but Gaucher followed the rebound and put it into the open net to send the Phantoms to the next round.

It was an all around good sequence from Gaucher, who had played for the Reading Royals in the ECHL last season. He put up 61 points in 71 games for Reading, including 12 points in 11 playoff games. Gaucher was an invite to Flyers camp for the second straight season before being sent to the Phantoms. He had signed a two-year AHL deal with them in 2022. Gaucher had eight goals and 16 points in 59 games this season. But he scored the goal that mattered the most on Friday night.

The Phantoms next test won't be an easy one as they will face the defending Calder Cup Champions, the Hershey Bears. Lehigh Valley had a tough going versus the Bears this season, losing eight of the 12 matchups between the two teams. The Phantoms' four wins came with two regulation wins and two shootout victories. One of those shootout victories was a 1-0 shutout for Petersen.

The series starts on May 1 as the top-seeded Bears will have home-ice advantage in the five-game series. The series is spread out over almost two weeks. There are three days between the first two games and four days between the second and third. If necessary, the fourth and fifth games will be a back-to-back set on May 11 and 12.