The struggling Checkers found a spark late in Tuesday’s matchup with Chicago, but things fell apart in the waning moments and they skated away with a 4-2 loss.
A sloppy back-and-forth contest left the Checkers down by one goal with over half of the third period in the books. After killing near consecutive penalties, Charlotte finally broke through when Valentin Zykov found an open Phil Di Giuseppe streaking in for a tap-in tying goal. The Checkers’ celebration would be short-lived, however, as Ivan Barbashev redirected a point blast while right on top of netminder Michael Leighton less than a minute later. The refs would review the goal at the behest of Checkers’ head coach Ulf Samuelsson, but it would stand, and the Wolves held a 3-2 lead with five minutes to go.
The Checkers pushed but couldn’t find any traction to tie the contest another time, and a quick one-timer from AHL scoring leader Kenny Agostino would be the nail in the coffin of Charlotte’s comeback hopes, sealing the 4-2 victory for the home club.
Di Giuseppe’s tally marked the second time that the Checkers had erased a lead on the night, as Patrick Dwyer swiped in a bouncing feed thrown in front by Andrew Poturalski early in the middle frame to knot things at one. That score that would hold until Andrew Agozzino struck on a man advantage late in the period, the lone power-play goal for either side.
The Checkers would be unable to draw even for a third time however, failing to eclipse the two-goal mark for the 22nd time in 33 games this season. The team is 1-19-2 in those scenarios.
With Daniel Altshuller in the NHL and a newly signed PTO backing him up, Leighton made his fourth consecutive start between the pipes for Charlotte and came up with several key stops to keep the Checkers within striking distance. But the four goals surrendered, all of which came via long shots through traffic, are the most he has allowed this season. Leighton is now 2-4-2 in his last eight appearances.
This bumpy road trip rolls on for the Checkers, who will travel to Grand Rapids on Friday before returning to Chicago for a rematch on Saturday.