For the second consecutive night, special teams were the difference for the Checkers. This time, things worked in their favor.
Rookie defenseman Justin Faulk scored the eventual game winner on a second-period power play and the Checkers killed all five minutes of a Chris Terry charging major to pick up a road win over the Grand Rapids Griffins. The victory ended Charlotte’s only losing streak of the season at two games.
Having gone 0-8 on the power play and just 2-5 on the kill in a penalty-filled loss in Milwaukee on Friday, the Checkers made good of their limited opportunities on Saturday, going 1-2 on the man advantage. Though they ended the night officially just 2-2 on the penalty kill, that statistic does little justice to the five minutes they spent shorthanded, most of which came at the beginning of the third period with the Checkers holding a one-goal lead.
The play that led to that shorthanded situation came with just 16 seconds left in the second period, when Terry tried to cut inside a Grand Rapids defender on a partial breakaway and ended up colliding with Griffins goalie Joey MacDonald, who then left the game and did not return. Terry was also given a game misconduct on the play, reducing the Checkers to 10 forwards as they were already without Zac Dalpe, who is expected to return Sunday in Rockford.
The Checkers were able to buck a trend of allowing goals in the third period – their 16 goals against was the most of any team entering Saturday night’s action – with goaltender Justin Peters staying strong to win his first start since suffering a lower-body injury on Oct. 21. Peters finished with 26 saves.
Faulk’s goal, the second of his professional career, gave the Checkers their first lead of the night at 15:11 of the second period. The Griffins had committed their second consecutive penalty just 16 seconds after killing Charlotte’s first power play, with Faulk making them pay via a rocket from the right circle. The goal gave the 19-year-old Faulk 6 points (2g, 4a) in eight AHL games this season.
Jerome Samson earned the secondary assist on the play, extending his team and season-high point streak to six games (2g, 6a).
Earlier in the period, Checkers forward Nicolas Blanchard had canceled out Jamie Johnson’s opening goal with his second tally of the season. The goal came on somewhat of a fluky setup, as a Griffins clearing attempt took a strange bounce off the glass and landed right in front of goal for Blanchard’s unassisted finish.
The Checkers now head to Rockford for a Sunday evening match-up that will conclude the second leg of their season-long, nine-game road swing.
The Checkers took just 18 shots on goal, 11 fewer than their previous season low … they did not take more than 10 shots in any period, and took just four in the third … Jordan Pearce (5.05 goals-against average, .844 save percentage in four appearances) entered the game in place of MacDonald and stopped all four shots he faced … The Checkers out-scored Grand Rapids 2-0 in the second, improving their season-long second-period goal differential to +10, the best of any period … Charlotte improved to 8-2-1 all time in the second game of three-in-three sets, including a 3-0-0 mark this season.