When it comes to facing the Houston Aeros, it appears that no lead is safe.
For the third time in their three meetings this season, the Checkers allowed the Aeros to score a crucial late goal, this time in the form of Carson McMillan’s game-winner with 2:10 remaining in the third period of Sunday’s match-up in Houston. The home team would add an empty-net goal to ensure a 5-3 final that capped a rally of three unanswered goals and ended the Checkers’ winning streak at four games.
Justin Soryal scored his first goal of the season in the losing effort, while Jon Matsumoto and Jerome Samson each scored on separate five-on-three power plays 41 seconds apart near the end of the second period of a penalty-filled contest. Checkers goalie Mike Murphy made 20 saves, losing for the first time in his last six starts.
The Checkers entered the third period with a 3-2 lead thanks to a wild sequence near the end of the second period that saw Houston take five minor penalties in five minutes, resulting in four separate two-man advantages for Charlotte. They would make good on two of those, with Matsumoto finishing a cross-crease pass for Samson to tie the game at two goals apiece before Samson did the honors himself with a one-time from the left circle moments later.
The parade to the penalty box would continue into the third period, with Houston’s Casey Wellman scoring on a two-man advantage six minutes in. That would set the stage for McMillan’s late winner, in which he pick-pocketed defenseman Michal Jordan as he skated out from behind the net and took a quick shot that seemed to surprise Murphy.
Houston’s comeback was reminiscent of the teams' first two meetings in Charlotte last week, in which it scored game-winning and game-tying goals in the final minute on two consecutive nights. Prior to Sunday’s game, the Checkers had not allowed more than one goal in a game since the two teams first faced each other on Oct. 21, a streak the Aeros broke via Kris Foucault's goal midway through the second period that made it 2-1.
With the loss, the Checkers missed a chance to set a team record with their fifth straight win. They also would have won on three consecutive days for the first time in the team’s two-year history.
The Checkers will now return to Charlotte for another week of practice before departing for another three-in-three set next weekend. They are in the midst of a season-long nine-game road swing that will not see them play another home game until Nov. 18 at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Houston has out-scored its opponents 16-3 in third periods this season. It out-shot Charlotte 13-5 in the third period on Sunday … Charlotte defenseman Justin Faulk had two assists for the first multi-point game of his professional career. He has 5 points (1g, 4a) in six AHL games this season … Charlotte’s win streak was tied with another four game stretch set from Nov. 11-19 of last season, with all games coming at home … Samson took six shots in the first period, finishing with a team season-high of nine. Samson holds the team record of 12 shots, set on Oct. 11, 2010 at Portland … The Checkers finished with five five-on-three power plays, while Houston had two. Both teams finished 2-for-10 on the power play … Center Cedric McNicoll (injury) and defenseman Rasmus Rissanen (healthy) were scratches for Charlotte.