Despite erasing a two-goal deficit in the second period, Charlotte gave up the game’s next two goals and wasn’t able to recover in a 4-3 loss to the Rockford IceHogs at Time Warner Cable Arena on Sunday afternoon. Keegan Lowe scored his first professional goal, Mark Flood netted his team-leading seventh of the season and Philippe Cornet buried his first as a Checker in the losing effort, with Rick DiPietro making 26 saves in his first game action since Nov. 13.
Though Saturday night’s win over Rockford eased some of the pressure that had been mounting as they became the first AHL team to lose seven straight games in regulation in two seasons, the Checkers, who entered this game six points out of a playoff spot, know they have ground to cover in the standings.
“It’s not good,” said DiPietro of the mood in the team’s locker room. “Yesterday was nice to get a win, but we need to start streaking them together here. Guys are pretty upset at this point, but it’s definitely not for a lack of effort.”
“I think this was probably one of his better (games),” said Daniels of DiPietro. “I thought he settled in and make a couple of real good saves in the second period. You can’t really fault him on either goal in the third period. I thought he had a little more of a swagger back there.”
Unlike in DiPietro’s previous game, in which he gave up five goals on 15 shots before John Muse replaced him midway through the second period, the veteran netminder shook off any negative effects that the first goal may have had on his confidence with several big stops in the second, including a pad save during a four-on-four sequence that Flood later capitalized on by putting away a nice feed from Victor Rask.
However, he didn’t seem to take much solace in his improved outing after the fact.
“I gave up a garbage first goal that contributed to us losing,” he said. “I just got crossed up, and there’s no excuse for that.”
Though Philippe Lefebvre had scored on a rebound to restore the IceHogs’ lead early in the third period, the eventual winning goal, a shorthanded strike midway through the third period, was no fault of DiPietro as defenseman Klas Dahlbeck finished a two-on-one break.
“We try to step up at the blue line, and all off the sudden we’re going the other way,” said Daniels. “It’s a two-on-one and in the back of our net.”
It was a low point for a Checkers power play that on Saturday scored a season-high four goals on six chances against Rockford, dropping the IceHogs to 29th in the league on the penalty kill. However, the man advantage did step up to make things interesting, with Cornet finding enough time in the slot on Rask’s second assist of the night to roof one past goalie Kent Simpson with five and a half minutes remaining.
“He has experience,” said Daniels of Cornet, who he acquired from San Antonio in an AHL trade involving Adam Brace on Friday. “He showed patience with a nice shot on that goal and brings another element to our top-six forwards.”
“It fits my style of play playing in the top six instead of the bottom six, that’s for sure,” said Cornet, who now has three points (1g, 2a) in two games as a Checker after finding it hard to break into the lineup in San Antonio. “Playing with guys like my linemates (Rask and Zach Boychuk), you’re going to get scoring chances.”
Though the Checkers’ offense didn’t have as much success as Saturday, when it tied a season high with five goals, Daniels said after the game that he felt the team had more quality scoring chances on Sunday. Some of those were thwarted by key blocks for Rockford and others squandered by too much passing in front of the net, with Lowe’s goal, in which he threw it towards Simpson to see it deflect off a Rockford body and in during the final minute of the first period, relatively simple.
Instead, the team pointed more towards defensive miscues as a reason for their return to the loss column, some of which may have been caused by being overly aggressive in the search for more scoring.
“At the end of the day we’ve got to limit some of those mistakes in the middle of the ice with turnovers and not getting pucks out,” said DiPietro. “Once that stuff gets cleaned up, I think things will start to go in the right direction.”
The Checkers return to action with a one-game trip to Norfolk on Wednesday before coming home to begin a 10-game home stand with a back-to-back set against Milwaukee on Saturday.
NOTESFlood entered the game tied for second in the AHL in goals by defensemen, with his goal tonight giving him a chance to give him sole possession of that mark depending on other results around the league … After scoring five goals in his first six games, Flood did not score for 10 games before finding the back of the net in each of his last two outings … After recording one point in each of his first nine games this season, Chris Terry is scoreless in his last three, which were sandwiched around a three-week NHL stint … Terry led all skaters in shots on goal for the second consecutive game (six) … The Checkers fell to 2-1-1 against Rockford, which had lost eight of its last 10 games prior to Sunday. The teams will meet again for two more games in Charlotte on Dec. 5 and 7 … Defenseman Michal Jordan and goalie Mike Murphy missed the game due to injury, while Matt Marquardt was a healthy extra ... Fans voted Terry as the Community Blood Center of the Carolinas Roll up Your Sleeves Hardest Worker of the Game.
North Carolina Education Lottery Three Stars1. Klas Dahlbeck
2. Philippe Lefebvre
3. Mark Flood