For all of the Checkers’ recent success, they still can’t seem to solve the Texas Stars.
By way of a 3-1 defeat at Texas on Saturday, the Checkers fell to 0-1-2 against the Stars this season, with their South Division lead dropping to two points. Zac Dalpe opened the scoring in the first period before Texas stormed back to score three unanswered goals, one in each period, against goalie Dan Ellis, who finished with 28 saves.
The result marked the first time the Checkers have suffered a regulation loss on the road since Oct. 31 at Milwaukee. It also ended Charlotte’s point streak at seven games (5-0-2), which tied a franchise record set during the team’s inaugural season in 2010-11.
The Checkers, who suffered an overtime defeat at Houston on Friday, will now complete their three-games-in-three-nights stretch against divisional opponents at San Antonio on Sunday.
Saturday’s game started out brightly enough, with Dalpe ending a six-game goal drought that matched his longest of the season as the result of a great give-and-go play with Riley Nash just two seconds after a Checkers power play had expired. The goal was Dalpe’s eighth of the season and first since Dec. 11 against Milwaukee.
The home team then began its barrage against Ellis, who was playing for the second time in the Checkers’ last six games. NHL veteran Toby Peterson started the scoring by finishing a centering feed from Taylor Vause with five minutes left in the first period. The goal was Peterson’s second of the season, as he had not scored since the season opener back on Oct. 13.
With the Stars beginning to seize the momentum – though shots finished at an even 31 apiece, the home team was ahead 18-8 at one point – Alex Chiasson scored the eventual game winner on a power play five minutes into the second period. The Checkers had taken two consecutive penalties to start the middle frame, having killed off a Riley Nash tripping penalty before Texas made them pay for Jeremy Welsh’s hold just 15 seconds after Nash’s penalty had expired.
Despite some increasing pressure by the Checkers, Stars scoring leader Cody Eakin, who had four goals in his last four games against Charlotte coming in, put the final nail in the coffin midway through the third period. As Chiasson sent a centering feed toward Eakin coming down the left side, Ellis nearly made a spectacular diving save only to see Eakin pull the puck toward his backhand and slide it under him for the 3-1 lead.
The Checkers out-shot Texas 13-6 in the third period, but it was to no avail as the team fell to 0-1-1 to start their three-in-three set. Even if they were to beat San Antonio on Sunday, they are already assured of their worst finish to a three-in-three this season, as Saturday’s loss dropped them to a combined 10-2-2 in those games.
The Checkers are scoreless in their last 13 power-play opportunities, including an 0-for-4 showing against Texas … Of the 11 teams the Checkers have faced this season, Texas is one of two (Oklahoma City) they have yet to defeat … Tim Wallace assisted on Dalpe’s goal, giving him a two-game point streak (1g, 1a) … Checkers defensemen Marc-Andre Gragnani and Rasmus Rissanen each missed the game due to injury. Finnish blueliner Tommi Kivisto played his second career AHL game in their stead … Forwards Justin Shugg and Justin Soryal were healthy scratches.
North Carolina Education Lottery Three Stars
1. Alex Chiasson (Texas)
2. Cristopher Nilstorp (Texas)
3. Taylor Vause (Texas)