The dramatic equalizer was there, just not the finish.
Nicolas Blanchard ended a personal 14-game drought to tie the game with just 1:37 remaining in regulation, but the Checkers eventually fell in the shootout during a 3-2 loss in Lake Erie. Defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti recorded a goal and an assist, while Mike Murphy made 18 saves in his first game action since Jan. 21.
The game marked the Checkers’ first visit to Lake Erie this season and gave the Monsters a 2-1 lead in the season series that concludes with a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday.
Scoring chances were few and far between throughout the night, with the Checkers taking a 22-21 advantage in shots on goal. That made Luke Walker’s goal midway through the third period look like enough to be the winner until Blanchard found the puck in front of Lake Erie’s net after some good work by a pinching Sanguinetti, walked it in front and deposited a low backhand past goalie Gerald Coleman for his seventh of the season.
After a late flurry by Lake Erie nearly produced a regulation winner, an uneventful overtime forced the second shootout in as many games for both teams. It would take only three and a half rounds to decide a winner, with the Checkers missing all four of their attempts and Lake Erie converting two of three. Justin Shugg, Matthew Pistilli, Zac Dalpe and Chris Terry were all denied by Coleman, who finished with 20 saves.
The loss was the third in a row for the Checkers in the shootout, who saw their season record fall to 5-5. Lake Erie, playing the middle game of a three-in-three set, has won both of its weekend attempts, the latter of which extended its home winning streak to six games.
Though Charlotte coach Jeff Daniels had alluded to Lake Erie’s defensive style prior to the game, the low-chance affair may not have seemed likely after Sanguinetti opened the scoring just 1:27 into the first period on a shot from the left circle. Though it was Sanguinetti’s seventh goal of the season, it was his first at even strength since Nov. 19, 2010, with the others coming by way of power play.
The Monsters’ David van der Gulik, who recently returned from a lengthy NHL stint with the Colorado Avalanche, tied the game just over six minutes later as he finished a nice back-door pass from Mike Brennan on a delayed penalty. That would be all the scoring up until Walker beat Murphy with a slap shot from the right hash marks at the 8:25 mark of the third.
There were only a handful of scoring chances other than the goals themselves, most notably a 2-on-0 shorthanded break with Dalpe and Brett Sutter in the first period and a string of saves by Murphy midway through the second. The Monsters also had two goals disallowed in the third period, one due to goalie interference and another due to referees blowing the whistle just before the puck entered the net during a goalmouth scramble.
The teams combined to go 0-for-9 on the power play, with Charlotte killing all four Lake Erie attempts to extend its streak to 23 games.
The Checkers should get some offensive reinforcement in time for Sunday’s rematch, as the Hurricanes reassigned Zach Boychuk immediately following the game. After concluding the weekend set with Lake Erie, the Checkers head back to Charlotte for a six-game home stand beginning March 10.
NOTES: Lake Erie played its third straight overtime game … Evgenii Dadonov recorded an assist on Sanguinetti’s goal to extend his point and assist streaks to four games (5a), while Sanguinetti extended his point streak to three games (1g, 3a) … Former Monster Chris Durno, who scored the game-winning goal in Charlotte’s previous victory over Lake Erie this season, played his first game since suffering an upper-body injury on Dec. 31 … Defenseman Brandon Gentile made his Checkers debut after signing a professional tryout contract on Friday … Center Riley Nash and defensemen Justin Krueger, Chris Murray and Rasmus Rissanen all missed the game due to injury.