After it was over, after Alex Krushelnyski found enough energy to one-time a shot into the net and end the longest game in AHL history, the 27-year-old Lehigh Valley Phantoms forward was filled with emotion.
“I can’t wait to go to sleep,” Krushelnyski told Inside AHL Hockey after a 2-1 playoff win over host Charlotte in five overtimes Wednesday.
He earned his rest. So did the Phantoms, the Flyers affiliate that took a three-games-to-one lead in the second-round series when Krushelnyski scored after taking a slick pass from Cole Bardreau with 13 minutes, 12 seconds left in the fifth overtime.
No one deserved the rest more than coming-of-age goalie Alex Lyon, who made an astounding 94 saves – a franchise record and the second most in AHL history, behind the 98-stop effort by Albany’s Michael Leighton (you might recognize the name) in a five-overtime playoff loss to the Phantoms in 2008.
“I actually don’t feel as bad as I thought I’d feel,” Lyon, a one-time star at Yale who went 4-2-1 for the Flyers this season, said by phone Thursday morning from Charlotte. “I don’t know if it’s the calm before the storm or what the deal is, but I feel pretty good. Maybe it’s because I drank about six gallons of water last night. Once you start getting into the first, second and third overtimes, it’s like, ‘All right, we could be here a while.’ So you start eating more food and drinking a lot of water. I even had a Coke after the third overtime.”
The game ended at 1:09 a.m. Lyon got back to his hotel at 2:30 a.m., answered some texts, and got about five hours’ sleep.
Lyon, 25, said he tried to pace himself during the marathon.
“I was feeling kind of tired, but I kept taking a knee and tried to relax,” he said. “I wanted to be preemptive and try to get as much rest as I could before I started to get really tired.”
The Minnesota native said a lot of his big saves seem “like a blur. Maybe it’ll come back, but a lot of it blends together. Thinking back now, I don’t really remember too many of the saves, but what I remember is them hitting the post a couple times in the overtime. That’s much more clear to me. Maybe it’s because it’s a shock to the normal flow of things.”
Phantoms coach Scott Gordon, a former goalie, said he once faced 76 shots when he was playing for a New Hampshire prep school team against Dartmouth’s junior varsity.
“The only thing I remember from that game is how easy it felt. You’re so on top of the game, and the puck looks like a beach ball,” Gordon said. “Every move you make is correct – and that’s how Alex looked last night. He seemed so square and confident.”
The Phantoms were forced to play most of the game with just five defensemen because Samuel Morin suffered an apparent knee injury late in the first period. Morin was using crutches after the game. The defense was already weakened because Travis Sanheim is sidelined for at least this series because of a knee injury.
“Can’t say enough about the defense,” Lyon said, referring to Phil Myers, T.J. Brennan, Reece Willcox, Maxim Lamarche, and Mark Friedman. “They played almost three games because of Sam Morin’s injury. Five defensemen is tough for three periods. Five defensemen is almost impossible for eight periods. They did a great job. They just kept it tight the whole time. Did a great job and were level-headed and were awesome all-around.”
Myers led the way, playing around 60 minutes. “And he looked the same in overtime as he did in the first period,” Gordon said.
Myers, who will battle for a roster spot at the Flyers’ training camp in September, missed time this season because of a groin injury.
“He’s taken care of himself and gotten to the point where he can be able to do what he did last night and not have any ill effects,” Gordon said. “He’s a horse and in phenomenal shape.”
Gordon said the Phantoms had “three different defensemen miss shifts because of cramping. And the fact we were able to get through it with five D [was impressive].”
Lyon said the defeat had to be a little demoralizing for Charlotte, which lost despite outshooting Lehigh Valley, 95-52.