WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- Trailing 3-0 in the third period, the Charlotte Checkers scored four goals in a span of 9:18 to defeat the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 4-3, and win the East Division Final series, 4-2.
The Checkers will now face their division rivals, the Binghamton Senators, in the Eastern Conference Finals beginning Thursday at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Chris Terry led the comeback with two goals, while leading scorer Zac Dalpe capped off the comeback with a game-winning tally with 3:18 to play. Brett Sutter added a goal and two assists and Mike Murphy earned his seventh win of the postseason after making 32 saves.
Despite holding the Checkers to more than five straight scoreless periods, Brad Thiessen, the AHL’s top goaltender during the regular season, allowed four goals on eight shots in the third period and took the loss.
Following the third straight scoreless first period of the series, the Penguins came out in the second frame and took a 1-0 lead on a goal by captain Ryan Craig before former ECHL Corey Potter scored 2:32 later to make it 2-0.
Early in the third period, the Checkers were given a chance to get back in the game when Tim Wallace was sent off for slashing at 58 seconds. The Penguins went on the offensive, however, and Joe Vitale scored a shorthanded marker to make it 3-0.
With less than 13 minutes to play, the Checkers, trailing by three, mounted the unbelievable comeback which decided the series.
First, Terry wristed a shot over Thiessen’s glove off a pass from Brett Sutter, to cut Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s lead to 3-1. Then, Sutter narrowed the Penguins’ lead to 3-2 when he deked a defensemen, walked in on goal and scored over Thiessen’s blocker from point-blank range.
Having shifted the game’s momentum, the Checkers pulled even when Terry added another off a deflection from a shot by Michal Jordan.
With 3:18 left in the third period and the game tied 3-3, Dalpe poked in a leading pass from Sutter for what turned out to be the series-deciding goal.
With their season on the line, the Penguins managed few late offensive chances as a solid Charlotte forecheck kept them hemmed in their own zone for much of the final minute. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton couldn’t muster the tying goal and the Checkers held on for a 4-3 victory.
NOTES: With seven total goals scored, Game 6 was the highest scoring game of the series…Both of the Checkers’ series have been clinched with road wins in Game 6…The Checkers/Penguins series was the lowest scoring six-game series in AHL history (20 goals)…In all eight of the Checkers’ wins in the playoffs, the winning goal was scored in the third period or later.