PHILADELPHIA -- If last night's effort by the Phantoms checking line was stellar, tonight was a masterpiece.
Eric Meloche, Todd Fedoruk, and Boyd Kane continued to wreck havoc on the Norfolk offense and Antero Niittymaki earned his first playoff shutout as the Phantoms sent the Admirals on a long bus ride home, down two games to none, in the East Division Semifinals.
"They're big physical guys who skate well and they relish the role of being checkers right now," said Phantoms head coach, John Stevens.
"When you play against big guys that are competitive like that I think it wears on you."
If Norfolk has a chance to do anything in this series, the top line of Matt Ellison, Rene Bourque, and Matt Keith is going to have to match-up better against Philly's big line.
Accounting for 30% of the Admirals offense during the regular season, Ellison, Bourque, and Keith were virtually invisible tonight, combining for just three shots.
The Phantoms gave Norfolk six minutes of power play time in the opening nine minutes of the game and the best the Ads could do was throw two shots on Niittymaki as the now-impotent power play is 1 for 17 in the post-season.
"I liked our energy and passion to play tonight but we're going to have to clean-up our penalties," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens.
For the second night in a row, the Phantoms passion resulted in a Norfolk power play in the opening minutes of the game.
Tonight Kane's over-zealousness netted him two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct for firing a shot on goaltender, Craig Anderson seconds after play was whistled dead.
Meloche grabbed back-to-back penalties for obstruction-hooking and slashing, giving the Admirals three power play opportunities in the before the midway point of the first period.
"It's such a physical series but we can't continue to take penalties at this rate," said Stevens.
"Sooner or later it's going to come back and catch you."
The Phantoms scored the only point they would need at 7:39 of the second period.
Todd Fedoruk, known more for his hands than his stick, demonstrated his offensive talents for the second straight game.
Firing from the left circle, Dennis Seidenberg's blast hit the leg of teammate Josh Gratton and bounce over to Fedoruk who tucked the puck past Anderson.
The Phantoms added to their bounty minutes later when Jeff Carter sailed into the defensive zone, scoring his fifth career playoff goal in fourteen games.
On the play, Carter showed why he was the 11th overall pick by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, weaving through the Admirals defense and catching Anderson moving right to left.
With 6:34 left to play in the game, frustrations got the best of the Admirals bench.
Defenseman Anton Babchuk appeared to throw a water bottle into the stands striking a young fan and causing a momentary stop in play.
Following the game, Admirals' head coach Trent Yawney issued the following statement:
"I didn't know about (the throwing of the water bottle) until after the game. I apologize to that father and his son and I will take care of my player accordingly."
"Once I get the facts, I will definitely discipline him."
Ben Eager added a power play goal with seven seconds left in the game for the Phantoms third goal.
"We're best when everyone is playing. I thought (Todd) Fedoruk and (Ben) Eager were skating really well, said Stevens.
"When you get into a penalty-kill situation you get those guys off the ice; we want those guys on the ice playing so we can wear down our opponent."
Norfolk now faces the ominous task of stopping the three-headed monster of Philadelphia potentially without the services of one of their once-heralded players.
Niittymaki stopped 32 shots as the Phantoms earned their first playoff shutout since April 14, 2001, at Rochester. Their last home playoff shutout was in their inaugural season on May 10, 1997.
Game Three will be played on Monday in Norfolk.
David W. Unkle is a freelance sports writer and frequent contributor to SLAM!. His work appears on several news outlets along with hosting The Topcat Sports Show in the Philadelphia market. David can be contacted via the Show's website at http://www.topcatsports.org or email@example.com.