The first period belonged to the home squad, who outshot the Checkers 12-5 and built up a two-goal lead courtesy of a slick penalty shot by Sonny Milano and a tic-tac-toe finish by Justin Scott. Things slowed down in the middle frame for both sides, but the Checkers couldn’t find any sort of footing offensively before Scott lit the lamp once again late in the frame, jumping on a bad turnover by Charlotte and depositing it to the back of the net.
The Checkers finally were able to break through in the final two minutes of the middle frame, however. Fresh off of a crucial penalty kill, Connor Brickley collected the puck in the slot and fired a backhander through traffic that went off the crossbar and in, completely catching Cleveland netminder Anton Forsberg by surprise and giving the Checkers a shred of hope heading into the final frame.
Charlotte would capitalize on that momentum in the first half of the third, when a 5-on-3 advantage ended with Lucas Wallmark firing a quick shot from the slot that beat Forsberg low on the glove side and pulled the visitors within one goal. The Checkers would continue to push for the equalizer down the stretch of regulation, even aided by a power play in the final three minutes, but couldn’t muster anything up. The Monsters held strong and handed the Checkers a 3-2 loss, extending Charlotte’s franchise-worst road winless streak to 12 games.
The Checkers’ offense came to life late in the contest, but another slow start doomed them in the end, as they entered the contest with a minus-20 goal differential in first periods this season, the worst such mark in the league.
But try as they might, the Checkers again couldn’t break past the ever-important two-goal barrier. It was the 20th time in 30 games that has happened for Charlotte this season, with the team holding a 1-17-2 record in those situations.
Michael Leighton, assigned to Charlotte yesterday as Eddie Lack was cleared for action for Carolina, made his return to the crease for Charlotte and made 25 saves, but moved to 1-2-2 in his last five appearances for the Checkers.
The Checkers, losers of four straight overall and 2-10-1 over their last 13 games, now head into the holiday break. Their road trip will pick up again in Manitoba on Dec. 30.