Monday, March 10, 2014

Palushaj and Sutter power Checkers to victory

After being shutout for the second time this season on Saturday, the Checkers -- and forward Aaron Palushaj -- responded on Sunday with a 4-3 win over the San Antonio Rampage that gave Charlotte points in five of its last six contests (5-1-0). 

After relinquishing a 3-2 edge entering the third period, it was Palushaj's 20th goal of the season -- which came midway through the frame -- that made the difference for the Checkers (29-27-3), with Brett Sutter (two goals) and Jared Staal taking care of the rest of the scoring. 

John Muse picked up his second win in the past three days against the Rampage, stopping 34 of 37 shots -- one more than he stopped in a 5-4 shootout win on Friday.  

A day after seeing their four-game winning streak come to an end, the Checkers again moved to within five points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 17 games remaining.

Brett Sutter got the scoring started in the first period and was followed just over two minutes later by Staal's first goal of the season at the 6:14 mark in the first. 

The Rampage responded with two power-play goals of their own (one by Ryan Whitney and the other by Jed Ortmeyer) to enter the second period with the score tied at 2-2. 

In the second, Sutter netted a power play goal of his own, with Palushaj assisting, to put Charlotte back on top. 7:42 into the third period, the Rampage again tied the game and set the table for Palushaj's sixth game-winning goal of the season (tied for fourth in the AHL).

With the win, the Checkers improved to 5-3-1 on their current 10-game road trip. Charlotte still has one road game remaining – a Wednesday showdown against Texas (who shut them out on Saturday) – before it returns to Time Warner Cable Arena on Saturday.

Notes: Palushaj (20) became the third Checker to reach 20 goals this season, joining Zach Boychuk (27) and Chris Terry (20). ... Palushaj now has eight points (2g, 6a) over his last five games. ... Staal’s goal was his first since March 29 of 2013, ending a 41-game drought. ... Forward Brett Sutter played in 450th AHL game, while defenseman Michal Jordan suited up for his 250th. ... Austin Levi was the healthy extra. ... Greg Nemisz and Brendan Woods missed the game with injuries.