Though home losses are rare for the Checkers, that doesn’t necessarily make them any easier to stomach.
The Checkers suffered just their second regulation loss at Time Warner Cable Arena this season, dropping a 4-2 decision to the Texas Stars on Saturday. Brett Sutter and Drayson Bowman scored for the Checkers, who saw their team-record winning streak end at five games.
After his team failed to earn a point at home for the first time since losing to Houston on Oct. 21, coach Jeff Daniels, who has often been critical of his team even after recent victories, answered sharply when asked about what his team needed to improve upon for the following day’s game against Lake Erie.
“Everything,” he said. “We’re not playing well, and we got spanked tonight. Texas played a great game.”
“We haven’t been playing with that edge,” said Sutter, whose first-period goal, an innocent-looking shot from the half wall that found its way in through traffic, marked his second in as many games since returning from the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. “We have to get back to playing with that snarl we need to have.”
Reigning AHL Goaltender of the Month Justin Peters made 25 saves but allowed more than three goals for the first time since his opening-night start on Oct. 7.
“We didn’t give him a lot of help,” said Daniels, whose team fell to 14-7-2. “We left him out to dry on all the goals.”
The Checkers, who topped Texas by a 3-2 score Wednesday in the first-ever meeting between the two teams, held the lead early in the second period when Drayson Bowman scored the team’s third shorthanded goal of the season on a backhand shot after going wide in a one-on-one situation with a Stars defender. The goal was the second shorthanded marker of the night, with the Stars’ Luke Gazdic opening the scoring while the Checkers were on the power play late in the first period.
From there it was all Texas, as the Stars scored three unanswered goals to seal the victory. Two of those came on the power play late in the second period immediately following a lengthy delay to fix a pane of broken glass in the Checkers’ zone. Just seconds after the restart, rookie Matt Fraser netted his 10th of the season on a cross-ice pass from Scott Glennie, with Mike Hedden applying the dagger with just four seconds left in the period.
“They showed a different team than what they brought the last night, and we weren’t ready to match that,” said Sutter. “We just got out-played.”
The Stars, who entered the game with the league’s third-best power play at 24.8 percent, went 2-8 on the night while the Checkers went 0-5. Though Charlotte failed to score on the man advantage, with the glaring missed opportunity coming when Beskorowany was called for high sticking with five minutes left in the third, Daniels did not put the blame squarely on his special teams.
“Special teams, five-on-five…there isn’t an area where I can say I thought we were any good tonight,” he said.
The Checkers began the third period down one goal and applying the majority of the offensive pressure, but any momentum was stifled when defenseman Maxime Fortunas made it 4-2 when Fraser found him all alone in the slot at the 6:30 mark of the third.
Charlotte would generate just five shots in the final frame, leaving the Checkers with some work to do before concluding their home stand with back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday. A potential positive for Daniels, who had been asking for more of his team even prior to the game, is that the loss could serve as a wake-up call of sorts.
“Hopefully it doesn’t hurt,” he said. “You win a few games and maybe you think it’s going to start to be easy and you’re better than you really are.”
NOTES: Checkers forward Chris Terry saw his team-record eight-game point streak snapped. The streak was the second-longest active streak in the AHL and was two games away from matching the longest streak posted by any player in the league this season … Charlotte defenseman Mathieu Roy earned an assist on Bowman’s goal, making him the only player to factor in on all three of the team’s shorthanded goals his season. He is now tied for the league lead in shorthanded points, and is tops among defensemen … Following an eight-game goal drought, Bowman has two goals in his last three contests … Forwards Jared Staal and Justin Shugg were healthy scratches for Charlotte, while center Cedric McNicoll and defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti sat out due to injury … Fans voted Sutter winner of the Roll up Your Sleeves Hardest Worker of the Game award.