They may not have had the start they were looking for, but the finish suited them just fine.
Despite trailing 2-0 late in the second period, the Checkers scored four unanswered goals to rally for a 4-3 win in San Antonio on Friday night. The win, Charlotte’s third in as many games, improved the team’s record to 10-3-1, good for second best in the AHL.
Zac Dalpe led the way with two goals, both of which came in the first 3:12 of the third period to give his team its first lead of the game. Jerome Samson went on to score the eventual game winner less than two minutes later to cap a rally that began with Nicolas Blanchard’s shorthanded tally with five minutes to play in period two. In goal, Justin Peters made 17 saves and earned his career-high third assist of the season to extend his personal winning streak to four games.
The Checkers now travel to Austin to play the Texas Stars on Saturday night before returning to San Antonio for a rematch with the Rampage on Sunday.
Although the Checkers were off Thursday night while the Rampage played just up the road in Austin, that scenario actually favored the home team for the first half of the game. The Checkers were coming off their longest break of the season, having been idle since their 4-2 win over Peoria at Time Warner Cable Arena exactly one week earlier.
Rust from that layoff proved to be a factor when rookies Drew Shore and Quinton Howden, both top prospects for the parent Florida Panthers, scored in the first and second periods, respectively, to put the Checkers down 2-0. Shore’s goal was a power-play strike from the left circle while Charlotte captain Brett Sutter served a slashing penalty, while Howden scored into the empty net as a rebound of a Tyson Strachan shot bounced right to him on the doorstep.
Even after Blanchard beat Jacob Markstrom on a breakaway for his fourth career shorthanded goal, that didn’t seem to give his team an immediate burst of momentum, with the Rampage threatening to restore their two-goal lead as the second period wound down.
It wasn’t until the third that the Checkers came out firing, with Dalpe scoring from the point on the power play just 56 seconds in before converting a two-on-none break with Chris Terry at the 3:12 mark. Samson piled on a fourth goal, his 100th point as a Checker, just 1:39 later when Riley Nash, who entered the zone with speed after a long pass up the ice from Peters, dropped a pass back to the right circle for a successful one-timer.
That goal, which made the score 4-3, proved to be an important one as Andre Deveaux would claw one back less than two minutes later. However, despite another penalty to Sutter with 2:53 remaining in regulation and a key faceoff in the Checkers’ zone with Markstrom pulled for the extra attacker, that would be all the offense the home team could muster as Charlotte began its most recent road trip with a win.
The Checkers are now 6-1-1 in games that are part of a three-in-three set this season. In their last such set two weeks ago, they won all three for the first time in franchise history (18 attempts), a feat they’ll again be in contention for as they wrap up the weekend.
With the primary assist on Blanchard’s goal, Justin Faulk extended his road assist streak to five games – the longest in the league this season … Terry extended his point streak to seven games (6g, 3a), one shy of his career high set twice last season. Meanwhile, Sutter’s career-high, six-game streak came to an end… Peters has more assists than a handful of his teammates, including Drayson Bowman, Jeremy Welsh and Tim Wallace … Drayson Bowman’s seven-game road goal streak, the longest in the league this season, came to an end … Checkers defenseman Rasmus Rissanen, who entered the game tied for the league lead in minor penalties, took two more tonight … Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani missed the game with a lower-body injury … Forwards A.J. Jenks and Justin Soryal were healthy scratches.