Given multiple chances to win, the Checkers instead had to settle for a point.
Playing their second game of the regular season in Texas on Sunday night, the Checkers went all the way to the ninth round of the shootout but ultimately fell by a score of 4-3. The Checkers had earlier led by a 3-1 score in the third period but gave way to a late Stars rally before concluding the first leg of their season-opening road swing with a record of 1-0-1.
Zach Boychuk factored in on all three goals for the Checkers (1g, 2a), making him the team’s leading scorer with four points in two games. Playing his first AHL game since May 12, 2007, goalie Dan Ellis made 38 saves and seven more in the shootout to take the loss.
Despite losing their lead, the Checkers still had a handful of opportunities to escape with the win and conclude their trip with four points, having won 3-1 in their season opener at Houston one night earlier. That began with an overtime period that saw them out-shoot Texas 4-0 and continued with a marathon shootout session that saw both Ellis and Texas goalie Jack Campbell, who were strong throughout the evening, come up big several times.
With the teams deadlocked after five rounds of the shootout thanks to goals by Matt Fraser and Jerome Samson that canceled each other out, the Checkers, shooting second, had four chances to ice the game in the sudden-death session, only to see Riley Nash, Boychuk, Justin Krueger and Jeremy Welsh stopped by Campbell, a first-round pick in the 2010 NHL draft. With Texas defenseman Jordie Benn scoring to lead off round nine, Charlotte’s Bobby Sanguinetti, who had earlier scored the Checkers’ third goal, was unable to convert the do-or-die opportunity, giving Texas two points.
Nash and Sanguinetti had the other goals for the Checkers, who now return to Charlotte before embarking on the second leg of their team record, nine-game road swing that will take it through Milwaukee and Rockford next weekend.
Much like the previous night’s win in Houston, Sunday’s game started off slowly in terms of scoring before setting up a wild finish. After the teams exchanged goals late in the second period, the first when Boychuk intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and scored on his own rebound for an unassisted goal, and the second when Texas’ Cody Eakin finished a tic-tac-toe play minutes later, things broke open in a third period that featured three power play goals and one shorthanded marker to force the extra session.
The first goal of the third came just 1:43 into the third period when Nash capitalized in the dying seconds of a carryover power play from the second period, with Sanguinetti adding another on the man advantage less than two minutes later for a 3-1 lead. Nash’s goal was a stuff chance from in close that trickled just over the goal line, while Sanguinetti, Charlotte’s most dangerous weapon on the power play last season, took a nice pass from Boychuk and roofed a shot from the right circle.
However, Texas would turn the tide for good on a power play of their own, with veteran NHL defenseman Cam Barker making good of just 10 seconds of a two-man advantage to blast a slapshot from the left circle past Ellis with a single second remaining on a penalty to Sanguinetti. From there, the Stars, playing their home opener, seized the momentum, with Eakin adding his second of the night on a shorthanded shot from the left circle that beat Ellis to the far side with 4:42 left in regulation.
Dating back to last season when he was a member of the Hershey Bears, Eakin, who arrived in Texas courtesy of an offseason trade that sent Mike Ribeiro from Dallas to Washington, has four goals in his last three meetings with Charlotte.
The game was the first of eight meetings between new South Division rivals Charlotte and Texas, with the Checkers set to next visit Austin on Nov. 17.
NOTES: This was Boychuk’s first three-point game since April 1, 2011. He had two points 13 times last season … The Checkers have lost three of their last four games against Texas dating back to last season … Drayson Bowman, Chris Terry and Zac Dalpe were also unsuccessful in the shootout … The Checkers were 6-6 in the shootout last season … Dating back to last season, the Checkers have lost five of their last six shootouts … Ellis fell to 8-3 in career AHL shootouts … Bowman led the Checkers with five shots on goal ... Forwards A.J. Jenks, Justin Soryal and Jared Staal and defenseman Brett Bellemore were healthy scratches for Charlotte.