CEDAR PARK, Texas – The Checkers showed signs of coming on late after falling into a big early deficit but ultimately dropped a 4-1 decision to the division rival Texas Stars on Friday.
Chris Terry scored for the third consecutive game and Mike Murphy made 27 saves for Charlotte, whose brief win streak ended at two games. The teams will meet again Saturday night as the Checkers conclude the first leg of a franchise-record, 10-game road swing that will not see them play at Time Warner Cable Arena until March 15.
Charlotte fell to 2-3-0 in the eight-game season series against the Stars, with neither team winning two in a row to this point.
In this particular game, Texas got all the offense it would need within a six-minute span in the first period, with Brett Ritchie and Curtis McKenzie scoring 26 seconds apart to begin the latter half of the opening frame and Ritchie adding his second shortly before the buzzer. The first two came off unfortunate bounces beginning when Patrik Nemeth’s centering feed hit the skate of Rasmus Rissanen and bounced right to Ritchie for the opener. On the next shift, Colton Sceviour’s shot went wide to the left of Murphy, but the puck bounced off the end boards, off the back of Murphy’s leg as he hugged the post and into the open crease for McKenzie to slam home.
Ritchie, who hit a goal post earlier in the period, added a second when he cut towards the middle of the ice from the left wall, loaded the gun and fired a shot cleanly over Murphy’s blocker.
After a scoreless second period (something that occurred in large part to a string of nice saves by Murphy), Terry, who provided the initial spark when the Checkers came back from a three-goal deficit against Abbotsford last Sunday, looked as though he might have done the same against Texas as Brody Sutter found him streaking up the left side for a shot that went off the far post and in behind Stars goalie Cristopher Nilstorp.
Since ending a 13-game goal drought that tied his career high, Terry, who missed Thursday’s practice to attend to a personal matter, has four goals in his last three games and 12 points (4g, 8a) in nine February games. Friday marked his 350th career AHL game.
On the heels of two periods where offensive chances were hard to come by, Terry’s goal seemed to briefly invigorate the Checkers, who began the third period with an 11-3 shots advantage over their hosts. One chance came when Aaron Palushaj and Zach Boychuk couldn’t connect when Boychuk came out of the penalty box for what looked like a developing breakaway opportunity. Another was on a power play at the 10-minute mark, when defenseman Maxime Fortunus swatted a rebound of Ryan Murphy’s blast from the point away from a waiting Boychuk on the doorstep at the last moment.
The momentum was halted when Palushaj was forced to take a slashing penalty to break up a Texas rush with five minutes remaining. Texas’ league-leading power play made good on that chance as Mike Hedden scored a breakaway goal to go up 4-1.
The Checkers now prepare for their Saturday rematch with the Stars, one that is likely to see goaltender Justin Peters play his first AHL game since opening night. Peters, who joined the Checkers on a conditioning stint from the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, served as Murphy’s backup on Friday.
The game featured seven of the league’s top 14 scorers, with Terry (1g), McKenzie (1g) and Sceviour (1a) each adding to their totals … Ryan Murphy’s five-game assist streak came to an end … The Checkers have allowed three or more goals in each of their last nine games for an average of 4.67 per game during that time … Matt Corrente has fights in each of his last two games since sitting out as a healthy extra for the first time this season … Palushaj had a game-high five shots on goal … The Checkers went 0-for-3 on the power play, ending a four-game streak with at least one goal on the man advantage (5-for-14) … Brody Sutter returned to the lineup after missing the previous game due to injury … Forward Greg Nemisz and goalie John Muse were not available due to injury, with forward Matt Marquardt and defenseman Keegan Lowe sitting as healthy extras.