GLENS FALLS -- Throughout the Adirondack Phantoms' first season, Johan Backlund was the one constant - the rock that kept them in games they had no business being in and the thief who stole them wins when they were outplayed.
So it made the sight all the stranger when last year's Most Valuable Player was pulled in the second period of Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Abbotsford Heat in front of a season-high crowd of 4,046 at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Backlund was pulled in favor of Brian Stewart 13:12 into the second period after allowing his second goal on 16 shots.
"I think it's like any player, when you have a tough stretch, you lose your confidence," Adirondack coach John Paddock said. "You start guessing a little bit."
This night, it wasn't the save percentage, but the variety of the goals that forced Paddock's hand.
Jon Rehault's shot from beyond the circle beat Backlund in the first to give the Heat (11-6-0-1) a 1-0 lead.
Denis Hamel's team-leading sixth goal, a tip of a drive from Erik Gustafsson on the power play, tied the game 4:48 into the second.
Eight minutes later, J.D. Watt beat Backlund with a shot through the five-hole to make it 2-1. It was the second night in a row he'd been beaten through the five-hole from the left circle. Paddock immediately motioned for Stewart.
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"I think he could get more aggressive in the net," Paddock said. "He's shallow in the net. I I think he's too deep. He needs to be more aggressive, that's my thought on it. Take a step forward so he's six inches outside the paint rather than a foot inside of it."
Backlund has struggled in three of his last four games. He gave up five goals on 19 shots last weekend in Portland and allowed five on 21 shots here on Friday.
Backlund has a 3.90 goals-against-average in 13 games this season. Last year, he finished with a 2.79 in 41 games. Paddock said that Backlund's offseason hip surgery, which caused him to miss most of training camp wasn't a factor.
"I don't think so at all," Paddock said. "The goals that have been going in you can't pinpoint to that at all."
Like their streak-busting victory Friday night, the Phantoms mounted a third-period comeback. This one wasn't enough.
Gustafsson scored a power-play goal to make it 3-2 11:19 into the third.
Abbotsford was then called for penalties twice in quick succession, giving the Phantoms a 5-on-3 power play. But Eric Wellwood got tangled up with a Heat player in the right circle and a penalty was called, erasing the Phantoms' best chance at a comeback.
"You'd like to think you're going to get a couple good scoring chances and probably a goal on that long a 5-on-3," Paddock said.
Abbotsford scored an empty-netter in the final minute after the Phantoms had rallied to make it a 3-2 game.
Despite being badly outshot and the shaky play of Backlund, the Phantoms were hanging around, trailing just 2-1 near the end of the third period.
But at the end of a penalty kill, Jon Kalinski took a major penalty for high-sticking, giving the Heat nearly seven straight minutes of power play time. It became a 5-on-3 for two minutes when Stefan Legein went to the box for a delay of game penalty, and the Heat finally broke through with less than 30 seconds left on Legein's penalty.
Bryan Cameron converted a cross ice feed from Rheault, banking it off a lunging Stewart to make it 3-1.
Overall, Paddock was satisfied with the weekend's effort, except for the first period of this game, when the Phantoms were outshot 12-3.
"With the exception of one period, I think we've worked, I think we've competed," Paddock said. "Obviously, the results are not what you want. But overall, I think there's been a lot of positive things."
Loose pucks: Toronto's Nazem Kadri was suspended two games by the AHL for his actions (abuse of an official) in Thursday's game against the Phantoms, which resulted in a game misconduct. Currently on recall with the Maple Leafs, he'll serve the suspension when he's returned to the AHL.
Abbotsford (11-6-0-1) 1 2 1 -- 4
Adirondack (3-12-1-0) 0 1 1 -- 2
First period - 1, Abbotsford, Rheault 3 (Bouma, MacMillan), 6:23. Penalties - Piskula, Abb (tripping), 0:28; Testwuide, Adk (hooking), 13:47.
Second period - 2, Adirondack, Hamel 6 (Gustafsson, Legein), 4:48 (pp); 3, Abbotsford, Watt 1 (Cameron), 13:12. 4, Abbotsford, Cameron 2 (Rheault, Brodie), 18:59 (pp). Penalties - Laing, Abb (interference), 4:12; Armstrong, Abb (interference, misconduct), 13:55; Baldwin, Abb (roughing), 13:55; Bourdon, Adk (roughing), 13:55; Rinaldo, Adk (boarding), 13:55; Testwuide, Adk (roughing), 13:55; Kalinski, Adk, double minor (high-sticking), 16:10; Legein, Adk (delay of game), 17:15.
Third period - 5, Adirondack, Gustafsson 2 (Wellwood), 11:19 (PP); 6, Abbotsford, Bouma 4 (Laing), 19:51 (en). Penalties - Abbotsford bench, too many men, 9:59; Carroll, Abb (hooking), 11:39; Meyers, Abb (hooking), 12:14; Wellwood, Adk (slashing), 12:29.
Shots on goal - Abbotsford 12-11-6-29; Adirondack 3-7-11-21.
Power-play opportunities - Abbotsford 1 / 6; Adirondack 2 / 5.
Goalies - Abbotsford, Irving 9-3-0 (21 shots-19 saves); Adirondack, Backlund 3-9-0 (18 shots-16 saves); Stewart 0-3-0 (10 shots-9 saves).
Referee - T. Koharski.
A - 4,046.