The Checkers rebounded well in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, using a pair of shorthanded goals to propel themselves past Toronto 4-1 to take a 3-2 lead in the series.

The Marlies opened the scoring on their first of three first-period power plays and nearly doubled up the Checkers in shots through the first frame, but Nicolas Roy clawed his team back into the game in the final minute, scoring a shorthanded goal for the second straight game to tie things at one.

The Checkers carried that spark into the second, with lineup additions Steven Lorentz and Stelio Mattheos connecting for a quick strike just 18 seconds in, followed just over two minutes later by another shorthanded tally, this time coming off the stick of Haydn Fleury from the slot.

Charlotte locked things up from there despite a continuously strong push from Toronto. The Marlies found themselves on six power plays throughout the night and launched 41 shots on goal, but the Checkers were up to the challenge. Dustin Tokarski, making his first start of the series, shook off the early Toronto conversion and ended the night with a whopping 40 saves to continue his unbeaten streak in a Charlotte sweater, with a Clark Bishop-delivered empty netter sealing the deal.

QUOTES

Coach Mike Vellucci on the game
I thought we were a little tentative early on and that they took it to us pretty good in the first period. We scored a big shorthanded goal there because I think they had three power plays in the first period and we were on our heels. When we scored the two shorthanded ones and that changed the momentum. We had a lot of guys out of the lineup and a lot of guys not feeling well with of the flu, and the new guys that come in did a great job. Obviously (Tokarski) played amazing. He was on his game, and that’s exactly why we got him. Why I’m proud of him is because he works hard every practice and he stays ready. He came up with a big one for us.

Vellucci on Roy’s shorthanded goal changing the momentum
It was huge. The message between the first and second was that the series is 2-2. We’re not down. It’s 2-2, this is a big game and play to win. Don’t sit back on our heels. Let’s play to win and do the things that we’re capable of. I don’t ever want them to not play to win. Let’s be aggressive, let’s go for it and let it all hang out.

Vellucci on Roy’s penalty killing success
It’s the whole penalty kill. We’re working extremely hard and the guys are aggressive. They have a great power play and they usually get in the zone pretty easy and we’re disrupting them as much as possible. They’re paying attention, they’re really smart hockey players and have got great IQ.

Vellucci on new players entering the lineup
We’ve got a lot of guys that aren’t feeling great and are injured, but these guys came in. I thought Mattheos and (Lorentz) played really well and that all the guys that came in played really well. A big part of it is that they stayed in condition and competed hard during practice. When it wasn’t always glamorous or fun, they did the little things that made them be able to play this well tonight.

Vellucci on controlling the remainder of the game after going up 3-1
It never feels like we’re like that as a coach, but I thought we were smart with the puck, got the high flips, got the puck behind them and paid the price. You saw guys diving, Bish and Brownie and those guys, leading by example and paying a price to get it out. We slowed the game down as much as we could. Obviously we had to kill a few more in the third but when we weren’t, we were doing the right things with the puck.

Vellucci on winning two of three in Toronto
I didn’t even think about it like we took two out of three here, I just played it game by game. That’s all we can do now. You’ve got to win four to win a series, and we’ve got to get ready for Sunday.

Haydn Fleury on bouncing back in today’s game
That was big. Especially with losing (Jurco), (Necas) and (Renouf) and other guys playing hurt and battling through, the new guys came in and contributed. I think that gives us confidence in our group, and then the PK was huge tonight.

Fleury on Roy’s goal changing the momentum<br /> They came out pretty hard in the first, and to come out unscathed with technically a 0-0 game and then 40 more minutes to get to our game and play the way we want to was huge. I thought we were better in the last two periods.

Fleury on coming home with a 3-2 series lead
It’s huge. We’re very comfortable in our rink. Let’s take this momentum back there and get it done.

Steven Lorentz on players such as himself re-entering the lineup
I think we just had fresh legs. It’s been a grind lately on this road trip. We went from a week and a half off and so did they, and now we’re playing four or five games in the span of seven nights or something like that. It’s a bit of a grind, so it’s nice that some of us guys could step in and contribute to the score tonight and (Tokarski) really did a good job holding us in there when we’re giving Ned a break like that. When you have two goalies that can play and perform and you have full confidence in them, that’s just a recipe for success.

Lorentz on his goal in the first minute of the second period
It’s a big momentum swing. Every goal is huge this late in the playoffs, and fortunately our line was able to provide a little bit of a spark and then we got another one after that. When every line can contribute, it doesn’t matter what point of the game it’s in. It’s always nice to see.

Lorentz on the team’s mentality following last night’s overtime loss
We weren’t concerned at all. It’s the playoffs and every game matters and you want to win, but we took some positives away from that game and there were some things that we worked on and touched on before the game on video. I think we did a good job rebounding and coming out on top tonight.

NOTES

The Checkers can clinch their first-ever trip to the Calder Cup Finals this Sunday at home … Dustin Tokarski improved to 10-0-0 as a Checker with just 10 total goals allowed. His 40 saves tied his own record for the most by a Checkers goalie this season (also at Cleveland on April 12) … The Checkers improved to 46-0-0 when leading after two periods this season … Nicolas Roy has three goals in his last four games, including two consecutive games with a shorthanded goal. He is tied for the league lead with two shorthanded tallies and has 11 points (3g, 8a) in 13 playoff games … The Checkers’ last three shorthanded goals dating back to Dec. 31 were all scored in Toronto. This marked the third time this season that the Checkers scored shorthanded goals on consecutive days … This was the Checkers’ first game with multiple shorthanded goals since Warren Foegele scored twice on Oct. 7, 2017 … The Checkers’ penalty kill is 17-for-20 for the series against the Marlies, who entered the matchup converting at a 40% clip on the power play in these playoffs … Fleury’s shorthanded goal was the first of his career … Forwards Tomas Jurco and Martin Necas missed the game due to illness, while defenseman Dan Renouf missed out with an injury … Forwards Scott Davidson and Zack Stortini, defensemen Dennis Robertson and Bobby Sanguinetti and goaltender Jeremy Helvig were healthy extras.

UP NEXT

The Checkers will look to close the series at Bojangles' Coliseum in Game 6 this Sunday at 7 p.m.
Nicholas Niedzielski
Author: Nicholas NiedzielskiEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Communications Nicholas Niedzielski joined the Checkers in the summer of 2014. A Texas native, he previously worked for the AHL's Texas Stars.