One night after pulling off a comeback victory in a big divisional game, the Checkers were unable to repeat that performance on Sunday.
Despite goals by Zac Dalpe and Nicolas Blanchard that cut Chicago’s lead to 3-2 midway through the third period, the Checkers fell by an eventual score of 5-2 to conclude their two-game road trip. The loss ended Charlotte’s four-game winning streak against the Midwest Division that included Saturday’s win in Milwaukee that saw the team charge back in the third period.
Mark Mancari, who had missed the previous three games against Charlotte due to NHL recalls, scored 3 points, including two first-period goals to help his team pull within three points of Charlotte in the standings. Tim Miller also scored twice for the home team, which got 32 saves from goalie Eddie Lack. Mike Murphy stopped 21 shots for Charlotte.
Though the final score, made more lopsided by a late empty-net goal, may not indicate it, Charlotte gave itself a real chance to get back in the game after falling behind 3-0 early in the second period. The team began to find its stride around the midway point of the contest, more than doubling the six shots it threw at Lack during a quiet first period, culminating with Dalpe’s third goal in his last two games.
Fresh off a two-goal performance in Milwaukee, the second of which proved to be a crucial turning point in a comeback victory, Dalpe stole the puck at the Checkers’ blue line during a Chicago power play and beat Lack with just 57 seconds remaining in the second. The goal was Charlotte’s fifth shorthanded goal of the season, tying it for fourth in the league, and the third of Dalpe’s AHL career.
Blanchard kept the momentum going early in the third, creating a goal streak of his own when his shot went off the inside of the post and in the net behind Lack following a faceoff win by Charlotte rookie Sean Dolan at 4:29. The goal was Blanchard’s fifth of the season and gave Dolan, a South Carolina Stingrays center playing his second game with the Checkers after signing a professional tryout contract on Friday, his first AHL point.
Charlotte continued to apply pressure to tie the game, but Chicago got the goal it needed on a wild sequence of back-and-forth odd-man rushes midway through the third. Chicago got two separate two-on-one breaks on either side of a Checkers’ three-on-one chance, making the last one count when Mancari sent the puck over to Miller for the finish.
Wolves leading scorer Darren Haydar put the game away with an empty-net goal just seconds after Murphy had vacated the net for an extra attacker with 1:52 left on the clock.
Chicago’s win tied the eight-game season series between the teams at two games apiece, with the Checkers winning the previous two after the Wolves got things going with a Dec. 15 win in Charlotte. Until Sunday, that game marked the Checkers’ most recent defeat to a Midwest opponent, as it was a league-best 10-2-1 in divisional play entering the contest.
The Checkers, who lost for just the second time in their last six games, now return to Charlotte to begin a four-game home stand that will see it play two games apiece against Hershey and Grand Rapids.
NOTES: Jerome Samson, the AHL’s leader in shots on goal coming into the game, took a game-high seven against Chicago … Samson and Justin Soryal each earned 10-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalties from an altercation in front of the benches with 56 seconds remaining … Charlotte was playing without injured forwards Chris Durno, Riley Nash and Justin Shugg and injured defenseman Mathieu Roy … Forward Matt Beca sat out as a healthy scratch.