Playing a fellow playoff hopeful that entered the game trailing them by just one point in the standings, the Checkers won their fourth straight game, tying their longest streak of the season, with a 5-4 shootout victory over the San Antonio Rampage. Sean Dolan led the way with a career-best two goals and three points, while John Muse made 35 saves in his first game since suffering an injury on Feb. 18.
Justin Shugg and Aaron Palushaj also scored for the Checkers, who took a 2-1 edge in their league-low fourth shootout of the season. Muse stopped four of five Rampage shooters after the teams skated to a fast-paced yet scoreless overtime, with Palushaj and Brody Sutter providing the goals.
Charlotte is now 4-2-1 on its franchise-record run of 10 consecutive road games that continues with a Saturday night game against Texas. A set of three games in three nights concludes when the Checkers return to San Antonio for a rematch on Sunday.
One of the more entertaining games of the entire season blew wide open in the second period when Rampage forward Bobby Butler scored just 59 seconds in on a power play that carried over from the first period. That goal broke a 1-1 tie created when Shugg took advantage of a defensive-zone turnover caused by Chris Terry and Wade Megan answered on a deflection in the slot.
Before the period was five minutes old, Butler had added a second when a miscommunication caused Muse to leave the puck behind his net for one of his defensemen to retrieve, though the Rampage’s Drew Shore got to it first before feeding Butler. Dolan responded 90 seconds later by tipping Palushaj’s shot past goalie Michael Houser.
Things settled down until the end of the period, when Palushaj tied the game on a setup from Zach Boychuk on the rush and Garrett Wilson put the Rampage up 4-3 with 22 seconds to go, improving the home team to 2-for-2 on the power play against a Checkers team that had killed 13 consecutive penalties over its last four games.
Dolan, the Checkers’ checking center for the last three seasons who missed over two months due to injury and has moved onto a scoring line with Boychuk and Palushaj of late, tied the game with 10 minutes remaining on another deflection, this time of Michal Jordan’s shot from the point. The goal was Dolan’s sixth point (3g, 3a) in his last three games, allowing him to set a new career high for points in a single season (12 in 31 games).
The Checkers, who entered the game ranked second in the AHL with a .438 scoring percentage in the shootout, improved on that mark with two goals on four chances – Palushaj’s opening effort that went high glove and Sutter’s deke around a sprawled Houser. Palushaj is now 3-for-4 on shootout attempts this season, while Sutter is a perfect 2-for-2 both this season and in his AHL career. Terry missed for the first time in six total chances between the AHL and NHL this season, with Shugg also coming up short.
Muse helped improve the Checkers’ .438 save percentage that ranked 29th in the league with his four saves, including a walk-off stop of Alex Petrovic to end the game early in round five. AHL veteran Mark Mancari, who was playing his first game with the Rampage following an NHL trade that brought him over from the Chicago Wolves, was the only player to score.
In addition to winning four straight games, the Checkers also have points in seven of their last nine (6-2-1) since Feb. 16.