CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Checkers came into Sunday’s game wanting to play a full 60 minutes. As it turned out, they would need every single one.
Chris Durno scored the winning goal with just 1:33 left in regulation as Charlotte erased memories of the previous night’s disappointing effort in a 4-3 win over the Lake Erie Monsters. Durno’s goal, his third of the season, broke a two-goal rally by the visitors that erased the Checkers’ 3-1 second intermission lead.
“I thought our compete level was a lot better than it was last week,” said coach Jeff Daniels.
“It was two different teams really,” said Chris Terry, who recorded a goal and an assist. “Last night was one our poorest efforts, but this was one of our best.”
Despite allowing the Monsters two score two unanswered goals to tie the game in the first 10:45 of the third period, the Checkers seemed relatively unfazed even though lost third period leads were an issue for the team earlier in the season.
“Nothing changed,” said Daniels, whose team improved to 9-2-1 at Time Warner Cable Arena this season. “No matter what the score is, we’ve got to keep playing the same way.”
“We were able to shake off those goals and go back on the attack,” said Terry. “That’s the sign of a good team.”
Neither of Lake Erie’s two goals were things of beauty, with Hugh Jessiman starting the rally with a shot from a sharp angle that beat Checkers goalie Mike Murphy inside the near post just 16 seconds into a Brett Sutter tripping penalty. Minutes later, the Monsters’ Greg Mauldin intercepted a Murphy pass from behind the net and fed Evan Brophey in front for an easy finish.
“Murph would tell you any day of the week that he shouldn’t allow both of those,” said Durno.
Just when it seemed that the game was headed to overtime, Michal Jordan sent a shot on net that Durno, who played for Lake Erie from 2008-2010, tipped in over goalie Trevor Cann’s shoulder.
“When you’re a big body in front of the net, you’re going to score like that,” said Daniels of the 6-foot-4, 223-pound Durno. “A lot of other guys can learn from it.”
Murphy, who finished the game with 27 saves, wasn’t the only goaltender to give one up on a miscommunication behind his own net. Midway through the second period, Terry, who saw his team-record eight-game point streak snapped on Saturday, stole the puck from Cann during a Lake Erie power play and wrapped it around the open net for his fifth goal of the season and second point of the night.
“It’s probably one of the easiest goals I’m ever going to score, but they all count,” said Terry.
The goal was the Checkers’ second shorthanded tally in as many games, giving them a league-leading four on the season. Normally a rarity, shorthanded goals are becoming common in Charlottes’ games this season, as Sunday’s contest marked the second night in a row that the team had scored and allowed a shorthanded goal in the same game, with Matt Carman scoring for the Monsters just 1:27 into the second period on Sunday to make the score 2-1.
“It’s just been turnovers,” said Daniels. “Obviously we don’t want to give them up, but we do want to be aggressive on the penalty kill. We just need to be smart about when to do it.”
On the other side of special teams, Jon Matsumoto gave the Checkers a 1-0 lead with just under five minutes remaining in the first period when he scored on the rebound from Terry’s shot from the point that hit the post. The goal, which set off the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss promotion, marked the Checkers’ first power-play goal in three games.
Drayson Bowman would increase the lead less than three minutes later, jumping on the ice after Justin Shugg held the puck deep long enough for a partial line change that put further pressure on Lake Erie’s defenders. Coming on fresh, Bowman took the puck in the left circle, skated around the goal and fired a shot inside the near post for his second goal in as many games and third in his last four.
The two teams will get an early rematch, with the Monsters sticking around for a Monday night contest that will mark the Checkers’ third in as many nights.