Goals were hard to come by after a wild first period, but the Checkers found them to be plentiful in the shootout.
Despite losing a 3-1 lead from the opening period, Charlotte scored on all three of its shootout attempts to record a 4-3 win in Rockford on Friday. The win, which came in the Checkers’ first game since Dec. 20, extended their point streak to four games (3-0-1).
With the teams level after 65 minutes of play that included a scoreless and tightly-played third period, the Checkers got shootout goals from Chris Terry, who scored his team-leading third of the season, Justin Krueger, who has scored on both of his attempts this season, and Cedric McNicolll, who was playing his first game since Oct. 28. Mike Murphy stopped all three Rockford attempts and has now allowed just one goal on 13 shootout attempts this season.
Murphy, who was making his fifth consecutive start in goal with Justin Peters currently in the NHL, made 26 saves during the regulation and overtime periods. Charlotte, which also got regulation goals from Terry, Matt Pistilli and Jerome Samson, out-shot Rockford 34-29 on the evening.
Though the game would feature a wild finish as the Checkers improved their record to 3-0-1 against the Midwest Division rival IceHogs this season, the middle portion of the game could not live up to the high-scoring start.
Rockford’s Brian Connelly, who entered the game tied for The AHL scoring lead among defensemen, struck first on a shot from the left point that came in a six-on-five situation when the IceHogs kept the puck away from the Checkers for nearly a full minute on a delayed penalty. Pistilli would answer just 36 seconds later to tie the game, converting a two-on-one feed from Zach Boychuk.
That would start a run of three unanswered goals for the Checkers, who also saw Terry notch his first goal in seven games, poking home a Jon Matsumoto shot that had trickled past Rockford goalie Alec Richards, and Samson score his 13th of the season on a shot from beyond the faceoff circles that found its way in through traffic.
However, Rockford’s Andrew Shaw would get one back for the home team before the period was over by depositing a rebound in front of Murphy, setting the stage for Peter LeBlanc to tie the game late in the second period by finishing a one-timer from the slot.
Scoring chances were few and far between for the rest of the game up until Murphy made a great save with four seconds left in overtime on what would prove to be the only shot taken by either team during the extra session. That set up an intense scrum in front of the Charlotte goal, with Chris Durno earning his second fighting major of the game. The Checkers’ Michal Jordan and Rockford’s Ryan Stanton were each ejected to the game for participating in secondary altercations.
Though Terry and McNicoll left little doubt in their shootout goals, having gone first and third, respectively, Krueger’s was a bit more unusual. The 25-year-old rookie defenseman had his shot initially blocked by Richards, only to see the rebound take a high bounce and trickle slowly over the goal line. Krueger, who is still looking for his first AHL goal, now has two shootout tallies in his last three games.
The Checkers, who recently completed the longest holiday break of any AHL team, will now face a short turnaround as they head to Chicago for a New Year’s Eve matinee (4 p.m. Eastern) against the division rival Wolves before returning to Charlotte.
The Checkers have gone to overtime in each of their last three games … Charlotte improved its record against the Midwest to 8-2-1 for the best percentage of possible points earned of any AHL team against its own division … Charlotte defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti had an assist in the first period, giving him five in six games since returning from injury … Samson’s goal tied him with Jon Matsumoto for team lead (13). He has points in each of his last four games (3g, 1a) … McNicoll had missed the previous 23 games with a groin injury … Charlotte has scored first in just 14 of 32 games this season. They are 10-3-1 when scoring first and 8-8-2 when allowing the first goal … Defenseman Chris Murray was a healthy scratch, while rookie forward Justin Shugg sat out due to injury.