Based on events leading up to that point, the shootout was probably the last place the Checkers wanted to end up on Saturday.
After missing a third-period penalty shot and two clear breakaways in overtime, more of the same occurred in the extra session as the Checkers ultimately fell by a 3-2 score to the Oklahoma City Barons. A record crowd of 13,102 was on hand for the team's annual Pink in the Rink event at Time Warner Cable Arena as Charlotte finished the weekend with three out of a possible four points against the AHL’s No. 1 team.
Justin Shugg scored Charlotte’s only goal in the shootout, with six of his teammates guilty of missing a breakaway chance at point or another during the game. Josh Green scored the winner against John Muse, who finished the night with 37 saves.
“I was saying on the bench that I hoped we had wasted some of those earlier chances and could score some in the shootout,” said Charlotte coach Jeff Daniels.
With the Checkers up 2-1 with 4:17 to go in regulation, a Barons player hauled down Zach Boychuk on a breakaway, resulted in a penalty shot attempt that Boychuk shot high over goalie David LeNeveu. Though Antti Tyrvainen tied the game on a rebound with just two minutes to play, Bobby Sanguinetti and Chris Terry both had chances to end the game with just LeNeveu to beat in the first two minutes of overtime.
LeNeveu, who entered the game with a 2.14 goals-against average, the best among active AHL goalies, finished with 36 saves. Though he exited the previous night’s game after allowing the first four goals in a 6-2 loss to the Checkers, he was up to the task on those attempts and on five unsuccessful Charlotte power plays, including two separate five-on-three attempts in the first period.
“We were moving it around well and had all the looks we wanted,” said Daniels. “We just couldn’t score.”
Despite the loss, the Checkers earned at least one point for the sixth consecutive meeting with Oklahoma City as they concluded the eight-game season series with a 5-1-2 record. Six of those games were decided by one goal, with one settled in overtime and two more in the shootout.
“Last night, I don’t want to say it was a fluke, but they had an off night and we capitalized,” said Daniels of Friday’s lopsided win. “This game was a perfect example of how these games usually are.”
“It was a playoff-type game,” said Checkers center Sean Dolan, who opened the scoring in the first period. “It was a fun atmosphere with a sell-out crowd. It was good that we got one point but we would have liked one more.”
Dolan, who began the season with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays, is now 21 games into his 25-game professional tryout contract with the Checkers. After the 25th game, the team would have to make a decision on whether to release him, sign him to another tryout or sign him to a standard AHL contract.
Though it’s not clear which type of agreement, it seems as though he’ll have something to sign in the near future.
“He’s a big part of our team,” said Daniels. “He plays a lot of minutes on our penalty kill and chips in some offense every now and then. At the end of the season and in a playoff run, you need guys like that.”
Dolan’s goal and defenseman Mathieu Roy’s tally to put the Checkers up 2-1 in the second period both had something in common – excellent setups from recent trade acquisition Evgenii Dadonov. On both goals, the scorers found themselves wide open with relatively easy finishes.
“Without a doubt,” said Daniels when asked if the game was Dadonov’s best as a Checker. “He made two great passes and was really invested in the game.”
“For the last four games I’ve felt good,” said Dadonov, who now has 8 points (1g, 7a) in 15 games since arriving via a Carolina Hurricanes trade with the Florida Panthers. “The first six or seven games I played with all different players, and now I’ve played with the same guys for a while. I think it will only get better because I can play with anyone and play the same way.”
As a team, the Checkers also hope to be trending upward after putting forth the occasional disappointing effort in recent weeks. Saturday’s result, combined with a loss by the Chicago Wolves, increases Charlotte’s Midwest Division lead to four points with just 20 games left in the regular season.
“Every season has its ups and downs, but when we hit our highs we play really well,” said Dolan.
NOTES: The Checkers’ post-game auction of their special pink jerseys raised $17,250 for charities involved with Pink in the Rink … Immediately following the game, the Hurricanes reassigned goalie Mike Murphy to Charlotte ... The Checkers killed all three Barons power plays and have killed 19 in a row over their last six games. They allowed just one power-play goal in the month of February (37-for-38) and did not allow a power-play goal to the Barons all season (24-for-24) … Defenseman Chris Murray played for the first time since Jan. 17, having missed 14 previous games due to injury … Forwards Chris Durno and Riley Nash and defensemen Justin Krueger and Rasmus Rissanen did not play due to injury … Fans named Terry winner of the Roll up Your Sleeves Hardest Worker of the Game award.