GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. The Charlotte Checkers’ excellent start to their six-game road trip stalled Wednesday as the Grand Rapids Griffins pulled away for a 5-2 victory.
Less than a week after the Checkers defeated the defending Calder Cup champions by a 5-0 score on Friday, the Griffins bounced back, dealing the Checkers their first regulation loss away from home this season.
Charlotte, now 4-1-1 away from Time Warner Cable Arena, got goals from Aaron Palushaj and Victor Rask, while goalie Rick DiPietro stopped 25 of 29 shots in his team debut.
Charlotte now will make another return visit, this time to Rockford, the site of a 2-1 shootout loss on Saturday, to complete a back-to-back set.
DiPietro, a 32-year-old NHL veteran who signed a professional tryout contract with the Checkers over the weekend, looked poised in net despite this being his first game at any level this season. The first three goals that beat him would have required stellar saves, including the opener from Gustav Nyquist, who beat him on a one-timer from the slot to tie the game at 1 in the first period.
Grand Rapids’ next two goals gave it a 3-1 lead, as Mitch Callahan scored on a deflection and Ryan Sproul scored on a blast from the point that found the top corner of the net over the blocker of DiPietro, who was screened on the play. Callahan’s goal marked the first time the Checkers had trailed on the road all season.
A fourth goal was the most stoppable, with Tomas Jurco flying down the left wing and snapping a quick shot that DiPietro partially blocked before seeing the puck trickle over the line behind him. Nyquist’s second of the night came into an empty net as the Checkers had opted for the extra attacker after Rask gave his team a glimmer of hope by scoring his second of this season with 3 minutes, 39 seconds remaining.
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