After erasing a pair of one-goal deficits, the Rampage scored three times in the third period to pick up a 5-3 victory over Charlotte on Saturday. The result of the first of eight meetings between the West Division rivals this season dropped the Checkers’ record on their now-completed, six-game road trip to 3-2-1.
Justin Shugg, Victor Rask and Matt Marquardt scored for the Checkers, while goalie Rick DiPietro made 38 saves in his second start of the season. The team, which has played a league-low two home games this season, will now return to Charlotte to play four consecutive games at Time Warner Cable Arena starting this Thursday.
Leading 3-2 at the second intermission, things began to unravel for the Checkers, who were playing their sixth road game in nine days, from the drop of the puck in the third. The Rampage would take the period’s first nine shots on goal, one of which beat DiPietro as Greg Rallo beat Rasmus Rissanen to the net and deposited a centering feed from Quinton Howden.
San Antonio finished the third period with a 22-8 advantage in shots on goal, tying two previous occurrences for the most shots taken by any team in any period in the AHL this season. The game’s final total was 43-27, marking the most shots the Checkers have allowed and the widest differential they have encountered this season.
The 38 saves by DiPietro, an NHL veteran who joined the team on a tryout contract last week, were the most by a Checkers goalie since Rob Madore made 43 on April 12 of last season.
Though the first period had more of a run-and-gun feel to it than either coach might have preferred, the game started out brightly enough for Charlotte, which got an opening goal from Shugg, his second of the season. Just 2:08 into the game, Zach Boychuk made a pass from just inside the blue line off the rush to Shugg, who was wide open to beat Houser one-on-one.
After Wilson had scored his first goal of the game two minutes later, a deflection of Jonathan Racine’s shot from the point, Rask restored the lead when Boychuk made a pass through traffic that found the rookie center with enough time to pick a short-side corner for his fifth of the season and fourth in his last three games.
Rask, a 20-year-old, second-round pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2011, also assisted on Shugg’s goal and now has 10 points in 10 games, tying Chris Terry for the team lead.
Before the first period was over, Joey Crabb had tied the game at 2-2 on the power play, marking the fifth power-play goal the Checkers had given up in their last 10 chances, on a shot that went off the far post and in.
In a much more controlled second period, the Checkers’ fourth line took some of the spotlight away from the unit of Boychuk, Rask and Shugg, all of whom had recorded two points on the Checkers’ first two goals, when rookie forward Adam Brace picked out a streaking Marquardt with a perfect tape-to-tape saucer pass for the redirection finish.
That set the stage for the comeback by the Rampage, who became the first team to defeat Charlotte when it held a lead at the second intermission this season (now 5-1-1).