It was another tightly contested battle, but the Checkers were able to push past the Penguins to capture Game 2 of the Atlantic Division Semifinal and claim a 2-0 series lead.

Things started rough for the Checkers as the visitors found the back of the net right off the opening draw, but Haydn Fleury evened the score before the first buzzer thanks to the fortuitous bounce of a shot fired from below the goal line. Both offenses stalled from there, as the game moved through the middle frame and into the final stages of regulation deadlocked at one.

The Checkers were finally able to snag the lead with a shade under six to play as Josiah Didier launched a point shot through a Julien Gauthier-screen and found twine. The Penguins shifted to desperation mode by pulling their netminder for an extra attacker but were twice punished for it as Clark Bishop and Fleury each knocked one into the empty cage to secure Charlotte’s 4-1 victory and give the Checkers a pair of wins on home ice to kick off the series.

QUOTES

Head coach Mike Vellucci on tonight's game
The first shift obviously wasn’t a good one when they scored, but once we got going and got our legs under us we played well. It was one of those games were it was back and forth and there weren’t a lot of chances both ways and not a lot of penalties. That was probably the difference between tonight and last night.

Vellucci on the game-winning goal
It was a great goal, great screen by Gauthier. That’s why we put him out there. Roy was so good on the draws tonight so we put him in the offensive zone. Dids had a nice shot there.

Vellucci on Haydn Fleury's impact
Haydn didn’t score in the NHL and everyone has been kidding him but he comes here and gets a couple goals. He can join the rush, he's a great skater, he has offensive abilitiy. We encourage him to jump in the play and get involved and do the things that make him a better player.

Vellucci on Alex Nedeljkovic's play
He plays the puck really well. Sometimes he gives me a little grey hair being aggressive but I’ve been seeing that since he was 16 years old. It’s one of his strengths. We encourage him to do that.

Vellucci on the crowd's impact
I was impressed. It was a big crowd and they were very loud. Our guys like playing at home in front of these crowds. When we score we like to hear that horn.

Vellucci on taking a 2-0 series lead
To use a tennis term, we held serve. Now we have to go and get one in their place and we want to do that Thursday. There’s a few minor things there that we need to work on like some faceoff plays that we weren’t ready for. But the effort was there, the execution was there.

Nedeljkovic on stopping the Penguins' attack
They were having trouble getting into the zone and making things happen. I think the D and the forwards defensively were doing a good job of keeping everything to the outside. That first goal was a weird one with a bad bounce and I lost track of it. But those things happen and from there we shut it down.

Nedeljkovic on the tight, high-pressure games
That’s playoff hockey, lots of one-goal games and tight games. You’re not going to see a lot of blowouts. That’s just playoff hockey. We’ll have a good week of practice here, a couple days off maybe, and then go into Game 3 with the same mentality as these last two.

Didier on his game-winner
We just wanted to get pucks on net all night. In the playoffs anything can happen and no shot is a bad shot. It was a good screen in front and a good faceoff by Roy.

Didier on the key to the two late victories
Just staying positive on the bench. Not getting down, not getting on the refs. There’s always ups and downs in playoff games so just keeping a level head and keep working hard and playing our game and good things will happen.

NOTES

This is the first time the Checkers have ever won the first two games of a playoff series (six attempts) … Including the regular season, the Checkers have won nine consecutive games, with their last defeat coming all the way back on March 18 (12 games) … Haydn Fleury, who did not score a goal in 67 NHL games this season, has three in four games since joining the Checkers on April 7. This was his second career multi-goal game as a professional. Fleury also tied a team playoff record with a plus-4 rating … Alex Nedeljkovic has stopped 52 of 55 total shots in the playoffs … Forward Marcus Kruger and defenseman Jake Chelios missed the game due to injury … Forwards Mike Ferrantino, Nick Schilkey, Zack Stortini and Sergey Tolchinsky, and defensemen Matt Finn and Dennis Robertson were healthy extras.

UP NEXT

The series moves to Wilkes-Barre, where the Checkers will have to win one of the next three games to advance to the second round. Game 3 is Thursday at 7:05 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.