The way things had gone for them lately, the shootout may have been the last place the Checkers wanted to end up on Sunday. All they needed was one goal to reverse their fortune.
Chris Terry scored the only goal in five attempts for each team as the Checkers squeaked out a 4-3 win in San Antonio. In addition to his perfect performance in the shootout, Justin Peters made 33 saves to record his fifth win in his last five starts, helping the Checkers take five of a possible six points on the weekend (2-0-1) and reclaim first place in the AHL with a record of 11-3-2.
The shootout win was the Checkers' first of the season and second in their last eight attempts dating back to last season. Having only scored twice in 18 total attempts this season, including a 1-for-9 performance in Texas on Saturday, it looked as though they may have been in for another long night until Terry, the Checkers' all-time leader with 11 shootout goals, scored to lead off round five. Peters, who improved to 14-8 all time in AHL shootouts, then stopped Jon Rheault to earn the win.
It was perhaps fitting that each team earned a point in a back-and-forth affair that saw the teams trade goals throughout the night, starting with Greg Rallo's goal eight minutes into the first period. Though captain Brett Sutter tied the game seven minutes later with his sixth goal of the season after Jerome Samson had created pressure as he exited the penalty box, James Wright sent the home team into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead.
Bobby Sanguinetti, back to being the Checkers' prime-puck moving defenseman due to the absences of Justin Faulk (rest) and Marc-Andre Gragnani (lower-body injury), tied the game just 21 seconds into the second period when Zac Dalpe carried the puck up the left wing with speed and sent a centering feed to the trailing defenseman, whose shot went off the post and in behind goalie Dov Grumet-Morris.
Though Scott Timmins scored his first goal of the season just past the midway point of the second period on a rebound to restore the lead after the Checkers missed a chance to clear their own zone, Zach Boychuk tied the game early in the third period on a backhand goal.
Boychuk's goal was his 10th of the season, putting him into a four-way tie for the league lead. One of the players he's tied with is teammate Drayson Bowman, who saw a team-record, eight-game goal streak snapped last week.
Before they got a chance to win the game in the shootout, the Checkers faced a few serious penalty-killing tests late in the game. First, they had to cope with a Bowman hooking penalty with 3:42 remaining in regulation, with a holding penalty to Terry in overtime proving even more difficult due to the four-on-three scenario. Peters stood tall in both cases, just as he did earlier in the game, including a shorthanded breakaway stop in the first period.
The result gives the Checkers points in each of their last five games (4-0-1) and preserved their 2-0-0 start against San Antonio, who they defeated by a 4-3 score on Thursday. They now return to Charlotte as league leaders for one day before departing for agame in Norfolk on Wednesday – their last road game until they again visit San Antonio on Dec. 16 following their upcoming 10-game home stand.
There was a slight delay in the first period when a Checkers player hit a Rampage skater into the glass, causing it to shatter … Nicolas Blanchard took sole possession of the team's penalty minutes lead with a first-period fight against former Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Tyson Strachan … After just 16 games, Sutter, who also earned an assist, is nearly halfway to his career high of 13 goals, set last season … The Checkers improved to 5-0-0 when trailing after the first period … Defenseman Tommi Kivisto made his AHL debut … Forwards Sean Dolan and Justin Soryal were healthy scratches.
North Carolina Education Lottery Three Stars
1. Chris Terry
2. Brett Sutter
3. Scott Timmins (San Antonio)