So often the victim of late goals to start their season, the Checkers have begun to turn the table.
Continuing a recent trend, the Checkers got an important late goal to help secure a victory, this time by way of Matt Pistilli’s power-play tally with 44 seconds left to secure a 2-1 win in Oklahoma City. Pistilli’s effort, his first of the season, came on a redirection of a Bobby Sanguinetti shot and ensured a winning start to Charlotte’s season-long, nine-game road swing.
The two teams appeared destined for overtime before Barons defenseman Colten Teubert, a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2008, knocked Checkers center Riley Nash down after the whistle had blown with 2:19 left on the clock. The play, which also resulted in the home team’s Alex Plante earning a 10-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, put the Checkers on their fourth man-advantage of the evening and in a position to win the game.
For better or worse, the Checkers have had a flair for the dramatic of late, with the last four contests featuring a crucial goal near the end of regulation. Before Drayson Bowman iced Sunday’s win over Norfolk with an insurance goal in the final 70 seconds, the Checkers had allowed Houston to win and tie games in the last minute of their previous two games.
Jerome Samson, who took a game-high seven shots on goal, also scored for the Checkers in the first period. His goal, a finish from the top of the circle after center Chris Durno had sent a backwards pass from in front of the net, tied him for the team lead with four. It marked Durno’s first point of the season and first as a Checker.
In goal, Mike Murphy made 22 saves to ensure a streak of four wins in his last four starts. The third-year pro, who entered the game tied for second place in AHL save percentage among goaltenders who had played more than one game, has allowed just one goal in each of those starts. His only blemish on Friday came when a shot from the point took a strange deflection off a body in front and ended up hitting the top corner over his left shoulder at 4:08 of the second period.
Almost immediately after the game had concluded, the Hurricanes reassigned Checkers captain Brett Sutter to the AHL, where he is expected to join the Checkers for Saturday night’s game in San Antonio. The timing of the transaction could prove to be very important, with Charlotte center Cedric McNicoll leaving the game for good with an injury suffered during the second period.
Checkers left wing Drayson Bowman also left the game at one point after a hard hit into the boards, but returned to the bench for the end of the third period, just in time for Pistilli’s winner.
The Checkers out-shot Oklahoma City 36-23 on the night, improving to a perfect 4-0-0 when out-shooting their opponent. The biggest discrepancy in offensive pressure came right out of the gates, with the Checkers holding a 10-1 lead in shots at the midway mark of the first period.
NOTES: The win was the Checkers’ first on the road this season, as they improved their overall record to 5-2-1 … Checkers rookie Justin Shugg made his AHL debut, having been called up on Thursday to replace Zach Boychuk … Justin Soryal fought Triston Grant in the first period, his third bout in his last four games … Charlotte has scored first in 5 of 8 games (4-1-0) … Charlotte has not trailed after two periods in any of its eight games.