Philippe Cornet and Mark Flood scored in regulation for the Checkers, who got 34 saves from a sharp-looking Justin Peters in the first game of his conditioning stint from the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. Charlotte concludes the first leg of its franchise-record, 10-game road swing with one point in two weekend games against their West Division rival.
Dating back to last season, three of the Checkers’ last six games in Texas have gone to the sudden-death shootout rounds, with the home team winning all three. In this game, Peters stopped three of seven attempts with the Stars’ Matej Stransky netting the winner after his goaltender, Cristopher Nilstorp, started the seventh round with a save on Checkers captain Brett Sutter.
After being held out of Friday’s game as he shook the rust off from the NHL’s Olympic break, Peters made several key stops in his first AHL game since Oct. 4 and his first game at any level since his last start for Carolina on Jan. 19. What began by shutting down a two-on-one chance in the game’s first shift culminated in an unlikely point-blank save on Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak in overtime with several more in between.
The final result ended a nine-game streak in which the Checkers had allowed three or more goals in regulation. The last time they held a team to fewer than three was during the last time an NHL goalie joined the team on a conditioning stint, with Cam Ward suffering a 1-0 loss in Lake Erie on Jan. 31.
After losing 4-1 to the Stars on Friday, the Checkers fell behind 1-0 in this game when AHL goals leader Colton Sceviour netted his 31st of the season by firing home a loose puck in the slot on a second-period power play. Instead of suffering the kind of sag that saw them allow two goals within the same 60-second span on Friday, a common theme in recent months, it was the Checkers that answered back 64 seconds later when Ryan Murphy stole a puck in the defensive zone and immediately took off up ice, setting up a two-on-one break that saw Cornet provide the sharp-angle shot to tie the game.
With the assist, Murphy extended his assist and point streaks to seven games – the longest by a Checkers defenseman this season and the longest active streak of any AHL blueliner. He has eight assists during that stretch and 12 in 12 AHL games this season, tying him with Flood for the team lead among defensemen.
Not to be outdone, Flood, who had already set the Checkers’ single-season record for most goals by a defenseman, set a new career high with his 12th of the campaign on the tail end of a long play early in the third period – a blast from the right point that gave Charlotte a 2-1 lead. The Checkers had earned the power play late in period two when Peters set off a wild scrum by shoving the Stars’ Chris Mueller after a whistle.
During that scrum, the Stars’ Cameron Gaunce took down Jared Staal with a slew foot, earning a match penalty that gave the Checkers five minutes with which to work. Flood’s goal came with only 23 seconds remaining in that window.
With Sean Dolan in the box for hooking, Mueller, one of four Texas players who entered the game ranked among the AHL’s top seven scorers, tied Charlotte’s Zach Boychuk for the most power-play goals in the league (13) when he tied the game with 6:56 remaining in regulation. The goal came when a handful of players were fighting for a loose puck in front of Peters and the puck squirted off to the netminder’s right side for an open look.
Texas’ power play converted two of three opportunities to improve to a league-best 27.9 percent. Charlotte killed the Stars’ first chance with Rasmus Rissanen in the box for cross checking but allowed goals on each of the next two, including Scevoiur’s strike that occurred when Rissanen went off for boarding less than a minute after his initial penalty had expired.
In the shootout, Peters gave up goals to Dustin Jeffrey and Sceviour on Texas’ first two shots, stopped the next three from Justin Dowling, Mueller and AHL scoring leader Travis Morin but then allowed Brendan Ranford to convert a do-or-die opportunity in round six after Brody Sutter scored on a beautiful move to convert his first career shootout opportunity. Also missing chances for Charlotte were Justin Shugg, Victor Rask and Zach Boychuk.
The Checkers now briefly return home for a few days of practice before embarking on a four-game trip that will see them face Eastern Conference foes Norfolk and Hershey twice each. That trip starts with Wednesday’s game against the Admirals.