Former Carolina Hurricane Troy Bodie scored the winning goal on a tip from John-Michael Liles’ shot from the point with just over six minutes remaining as the Checkers fell 3-2 in Toronto on Tuesday, extending their franchise-record losing streak to seven consecutive games. Rasmus Rissanen and Brett Sutter scored for Charlotte, which now returns home for a back-to-back set against the Rockford IceHogs starting Saturday.
Making his third consecutive start, John Muse made 27 saves as the Marlies out-shot the Checkers by a 30-17 margin, limiting the visitors to just seven total shots over the final two periods.
With the Checkers an admittedly fragile team as they struggle through what has been a winless month of November, the Marlies did everything they could to intimidate them in a rough-and-tumble second period that featured 13 penalties, including two fights. Those scraps involved Charlotte’s Nicolas Blanchard, who took on Brad Staubitz after Staubitz delivered a bit hit on Danny Biega, and rookie Keegan Lowe, who underwent a long tussle with Sam Carrick.
Despite all of that, each Checkers player that became a victim of those hits was able to return for the third period, including Sutter, who tied the game at 2-2 on an innocent-looking shot that may have missed the net had Marlies goalie Drew MacIntyre not reached out with his blocker, a move that backfired when the puck ricocheted into his net.
From there, Toronto began to apply the bulk of the pressure, coming up empty despite a power play spent almost entirely in the Charlotte zone that featured a string of good saves by Muse before Liles, an NHL veteran who rejoined the Marlies last week, blasted one from the top of the circles that hit Bodie on its way in.
The Checkers received one final chance on an offensive-zone faceoff during a 6-on-4 situation with Muse pulled for the extra attacker and Jerry D’Amigo in the box for slashing, but a faceoff loss by Brett Sutter ended their hopes for a comeback.
Earlier in the game, Rissanen had opened the scoring with his fourth goal in 140 AHL games and first since April 10, 2012, on a shot from the point that beat MacIntyre through traffic. It marked the first even-strength goal the Checkers had scored in their last three games and also the first time the team had enjoyed a lead of any kind during that time.
The lead would only last three-and-a-half minutes, however, with forward Brad Ross scoring on a rebound to tie the game. Josh Leivo, who scored his first NHL goal against the Hurricanes while playing for the parent Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 17, then gave the Marlies the lead on an excellent shot from the left circle that beat Muse over the left shoulder early in the second period.
Thursday’s game, along with a 4-1 Checkers loss on Saturday, marked the first-ever meetings between the two clubs. They will face each other two more times on Dec. 20 and 21, marking the end of Charlotte’s 10-game home stand.