WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, Pa. – Zac Dalpe capped off a four-goal, third-period comeback that sent the Charlotte Checkers past the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins by a 4-3 score on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. With the loss, the Penguins are eliminated from the postseason and the Checkers will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals to take on the Binghamton Senators.
The scoreless first period theme held true once again, as both teams skated to the dressing room with nothing on the scoreboard. But it was the Checkers who had the best chance to get on the scoreboard when they were handed a two-man advantage that lasted for one minute. But timely saves from Brad Thiessen and two key clears by Corey Potter kept the Checkers off of the board.
The Penguins finally got on the scoreboard in the second period when Robert Bortuzzo began a breakout play from his own zone, sending Ben Street and Ryan Craig off on a two-on-one rush. Street took a shot from the right half-wall that was kicked out by Checkers netminder Mike Murphy, but Craig jumped to the rebound and lifted a shot over Murphy’s glove at 7:13.
Then for the first time all series, the Penguins solved the Checkers’ perfect penalty kill by tallying on a two-man advantage. With Oskar Osala and Nicolas Blanchard in the penalty box, the Penguins began the power play with a faceoff win from Craig. The puck came to Andrew Hutchinson at the left point, who passed across the blue line. Corey Potter then unloaded a slap shot that changed direction in the slot and slipped past Murphy at 9:45, giving the Penguins a 2-0 lead that they took to the intermission.
Joe Vitale electrified the crowd with a perfectly-placed wrist shot just 1:13 into the third period to extend the Penguins’ lead to 3-0, the Penguins’ first shorthanded goal of the playoffs.
But Charlotte orchestrated their comeback with four goals in a span of 9:18, beginning with Chris Terry’s first of two goals on the night. His first came when he was uncovered, and he took a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot that sailed over Thiessen’s glove.
Brett Sutter cut the lead to 3-2 when he walked out from the right corner, waited for Thiessen to commit low, and took a wrist shot that got past Thiessen’s stick hand at 10:40.
The tying goal came just 30 seconds later when a shot from the right point deflected off of Terry’s skate and past Thiessen.
The Penguins took their timeout after the goal, but the Checkers just kept pressing and took the lead when Dalpe tapped in a pass from Sutter on a line rush at 16:42.
The Penguins were unable to get Thiessen to the bench for an extra attacker until the game had only 28 seconds remaining.
Thiessen finished with a record of 6-6 in the postseason, making 29 saves on the night. Murphy earned the win with 32 saves on 35 shots. The Penguins were 8-for-8 on the penalty kill and 1-for-6 on the power play.