Game 1 of the Atlantic Division Finals went down to the wire, but the Checkers found themselves on the wrong end of a late winner and fell to the Phantoms 2-1.
With less than two minutes left in regulation, Valentin Zykov was called for a tripping penalty. The Phantoms, who had been held scoreless on their previous four man advantages, won the ensuing draw and wasted no time finding the back of the net, claiming a 2-1 lead that would survive the final 73 seconds.
Zykov was responsible for Charlotte's lone tally on the night, scooping the puck out of a mass of bodies in front of the net and potting it late in the first to open the scoring. The Checkers would hold that lead until early in the middle frame, when Alex Krushelnyski lit the lamp for the home squad.
The goalies at either end stole the show for the majority of regulation. Alex Nedeljkovic came away with 30 saves on the night, including several jaw-dropping denials, while his counterpart Alex Lyon stopped 29 of the 30 shots he saw.
The Checkers’ 10-game win streak and 13-game point streak (12-0-1) both came to an end. This was the Checkers’ first lost in regulation since March 18 vs. Binghamton, which was also the last time they scored fewer than two goals … The Checkers scored the games’ first goal for the first time this postseason, yet suffered their first loss … Alex Nedeljkovic’s 30 saves were his most of the postseason … The Phantoms out-shot the Checkers 13-5 in the third period … In addition to his goal, Zykov took three minor penalties … Charlotte fell to 1-4-0 at Lehigh Valley this season … The Checkers went 0-for-2 on the power play and fell to 1-for-17 for the postseason … Warren Foegele took a game-high six shots on goal … Defenseman Jake Chelios missed the game due to injury … Forwards Mike Ferrantino, Morgan Geekie, Nick Schilkey and Zack Stortini, and defensemen Jake Bean, Matt Finn and Dennis Robertson were healthy extras.
The Checkers won’t have to wait long for a rematch, as Game 2 will take place tomorrow at 7:05 p.m. in Lehigh Valley.