December 11, 2011 6:20 PM
The Checkers finally broke through their recent offensive struggles, but that likely won’t come as any consolation.
Jared Staal scored with just 38 seconds left in the third period to spoil Jacob Markstrom’s shutout bid and end the Checkers’ team-record goal drought at just over 163 minutes, but it wasn’t enough as the team dropped a 4-1 decision in San Antonio on Sunday. The outcome marked the third consecutive loss for Charlotte, which is its longest streak since it dropped four in a row in October of last season.
Markstrom, a top prospect of the Florida Panthers who has seen time in the NHL this season, made 44 saves as Charlotte narrowly avoided being shut out for the second consecutive night. He made a few of stellar saves, most notably on Zach Boychuk and Brett Sutter during Checkers power plays, but his scorers gave him all the room he would need after storming out to a 3-0 lead in the first period.
Staal, who had sat out the team’s previous eight games as a healthy scratch, managed to get his team on the board in a period that saw the Checkers out-shoot San Antonio 16-2 with the first power-play goal of his AHL career. The goal, which came on Staal’s sixth shot of the night, was assisted by another player making a long-awaited return, defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti, who had missed 10 games with a broken foot.
Despite the late goal, the Checkers never posed a serious threat during the game, as they trailed just 3:19 into the first period when former Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Tyson Strachan scored on a quick wrist shot following a Rampage face off win. Greg Rallo would add a second goal just 3:30 later, stuffing home an easy rebound after Charlotte’s Justin Peters made a good save on Evgenii Dadonov from in close.
Peters, playing his third consecutive game for Charlotte due to teammate Mike Murphy’s recent NHL recall, made 19 saves on 23 shots, including a string of excellent saves to keep the game close in the first period.
Despite Peters’ efforts, San Antonio’s Scott Timmins gave his team a 3-0 lead before the squads headed to the locker room for the first intermission, finishing off a one-time pass from Evan Barlow as he was left unmarked in the slot. Rampage leading scorer Bracken Kearns scored his ninth goal of the season during the second period, marking just the 11th power-play goal of the season for the league’s 30th-ranked unit.
Charlotte finished the night 1-5 on the power play, including a 10-second five-on-three advantage near the start of the second period.
Having lost both games of their weekend trip through Texas, the Checkers now return home for a four-game home stand that will take it up to the 10-day holiday break that begins on Dec. 21. Heading into Sunday’s games, Charlotte was tied for the league lead in points earned at home (19) with a record of 9-3-1.
NOTES: In addition to Staal, Checkers forwards Zac Dalpe and Chris Terry also recorded six shots on goal … Besides holding the AHL’s lowest power play percentage, the Rampage entered the game tied for the lowest percentage on the penalty kill … The Checkers were playing without forward Drayson Bowman, who was recalled to the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes earlier in the day … Defenseman Chris Murray, recalled from ECHL Florida after Sanguinetti’s injury, was a healthy scratch.