The Oklahoma City Barons may be the AHL’s best team, but the Checkers certainly seem to have their number.
Charlotte improved to 4-1-1 against the Barons this season with a 3-1 win in Oklahoma City on Friday night. The Barons, who held the AHL’s longest active winning streak at seven games, fell to 30-12-5, with a third of those regulation losses coming courtesy of Charlotte.
Defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti set a new team record by recording a point for the ninth consecutive game, as his power-play tally early in the third period, his team’s third goal of the game, came at a key time for a team that had lost third-period leads in each of its last two games. A.J. Jenks and Brett Sutter also scored for the Checkers, while rookie John Muse made 27 saves to improve to 6-1-0 this season.
Sanguinetti’s goal was good for his 13th point (5g, 8a) during his nine-game run, with 12 of those coming on the power play. With the Checkers entering the third period with a 2-1 lead – a situation that has resulted in each of their last three regulation losses – Sanguinetti made a good play to keep the puck in at the blue line before walking into the slot and beating goalie David LeNeveu at 2:40.
That goal ensured that the Checkers would score on the power play for the ninth consecutive game, extending a team record. They finished the night 1-for-5 against the AHL’s No. 1 penalty kill while negating all five Oklahoma City power plays.
Earlier, Jenks, a recent trade acquisition from the Florida Panthers organization, had opened the scoring late in the first period with a finish from the slot that represented his first point in 31 games this season and first goal since he tallied for the Rochester Americans on March 4 of last year. That goal, the ninth of his two-season AHL career, ended a 34-game drought.
Charlotte captain Brett Sutter added another strike midway through the second period, as he collected the rebound of a Matthew Pistilli shot to put his team up 2-0. The play started as a two-on-one with Sutter and Zach Boychuk, with Boychuk setting up the trailing Pistilli for a one-timer that was too much for LeNeveu to handle.
The Barons’ Curtis Hamilton would claw one back with 1:44 left in the middle frame, banking a shot off Checkers defenseman Joe Sova from behind the net on a chance that developed on a strange bounce off the glass behind Muse.
Any momentum gained from that play was stifled by Sanguinetti, who capitalized on the team’s third power play of the night before the Barons could get going.
The Checkers had chances to build on their lead in the third, with Jenks hitting the goal post and referees waiving off a goal by Sutter due to a kicking motion. Jerome Samson, making his return from injury and his return to the Checkers following a reassignment from the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes earlier in the week, just missed scoring what would have been his team-leading 16th goal as LeNeveu made a great save on his one-time shot off a setup by Sanguinetti.
Muse also did his part to hold the lead, making a string of saves during a four-on-four situation with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.
The Checkers continue their two-game weekend road swing with a visit to the Texas Stars on Saturday night. They are in the midst of a stretch in which they play seven of eight games on the road, with their next home gaming coming against Norfolk on Feb. 12.
NOTES: Charlotte’s Chris Terry saw his point streak end at eight games. He recorded 15 points during that stretch (4g, 11a), tying his personal record … The Checkers have scored on 15 of their last 43 power plays (34.9 percent) … Boychuk was called for four minor penalties … Pistilli and Sutter each recorded a game-high 2 points … Samson, who held the AHL lead in shots on goal at the time of his mid-January NHL recall, recorded five against the Barons.