In desperate need of a goal, the Checkers found it by accident.
With the team down by a goal midway through the third period of a divisional match-up in Milwaukee, Zac Dalpe scored on a turnaround shot from the blue line to tie the game and set the stage for Zach Boychuk’s winner in an eventual 4-3 victory. Rather than see Milwaukee catch them in the Midwest, the Checkers instead extended their lead over the Admirals to four points.
Mike Murphy made 29 saves for the Checkers, who became the first team to achieve a third-period comeback against Milwaukee this season. Previously, the Admirals were 13-0-0 when leading after two periods.
Saturday’s contest, the fourth of the season between the two clubs, was a back-and-forth affair that featured three lead changes. None of those were as dramatic as Charlotte’s third-period rally that began when Dalpe intercepted a clearing attempt at the edge of the offensive zone and simply fired a shot on net. Surprisingly, the puck found its way through 6-foot-6 goaltender Anders Lindback, who has spent the bulk of the last two seasons with the NHL’s Nashville Predators.
Before the shock could wear off, Checkers forward Matt Pistilli took advantage of a Milwaukee turnover, feeding Boychuk on a two-on-none break that the latter confidently finished just 20 seconds after Dalpe’s equalizer. That allowed Charlotte to reclaim the lead for the first time since the latter part of the second period when Milwaukee scored twice in a four-minute span to go up 3-2.
From there, Murphy was sharp to keep the Admirals from getting one back on their home ice, making a handful of saves and limiting any opportunities on rebounds.
Dalpe’s equalizer was his second tally of the night, as he also scored on a power-play rebound 7:51 into the first period to cancel out Kyle Wilson’s opener that came with Dalpe in the box for tripping. Nicolas Blanchard would give the Checkers a 2-1 lead on a similar goal midway through the second period, picking up a loose puck at the side of the net and sneaking one inside the near post to beat Lindback.
However, the Admirals would storm back when Taylor Beck finished off a give-and-go with Ryan Flynn just after a Charlotte power play had expired, cutting in front of the net and going around a sprawled Murphy. Milwaukee’s Chris Mueller, who was named to the AHL All-Star Classic earlier in the week, would then take advantage of a giveaway in the Checkers’ zone with his 14th goal of the season at the 17:52 mark of the second.
Those goals put Milwaukee, statistically one of the league’s best defensive and home teams, in a comfortable position until Dalpe’s unlikely goal turned the tide.
The victory was the Checkers’ fourth in five games and second in a row. It was also their fourth in a row against Midwest opponents, improving their divisional record to a league-best 10-2-1.
The Checkers now travel to Chicago to face another divisional rival, a game that will complete their two-game road trip.
NOTES: Charlotte improved to 3-1-0 against Milwaukee this season … Checkers defenseman Derek Joslin, on a conditioning stint from the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, recorded 2 assists. He now has 3 helpers in two AHL games this season … Drayson Bowman played his first game for Charlotte since Dec. 9, with the Hurricanes reassigning him earlier in the day … Forwards Chris Durno, Riley Nash and Justin Shugg and defenseman Mathieu Roy all sat out due to injury … ECHL forward recall Matt Beca was a healthy scratch, while center Sean Dolan, another ECHL forward who signed a professional tryout agreement on Friday, made his AHL debut.