Midway through the second period, Checkers forward Aaron Palushaj passed up an open shot on the break, and instead looked to make a perfect pass to Zach Boychuk in the crease.
The attempted assist was deflected away and Charlotte wound up without a shot on what had initially looked like a promising scoring chance.
“I think that anybody that was watching the game could have told me that” I shouldn’t have passed the puck, said Palushaj. “I was pretty hard on myself after I passed up that opportunity.”
So when the former second-round pick found himself streaking in on Norfolk Admirals goalie John Gibson (23 saves) with less than a minute to play in overtime of a 3-3 game, putting a shot on net was his only thought.
Palushaj held the puck just long enough for an Admirals defenseman to slide in between Gibson and himself, before sending a wrist shot into the back of the net for a 4-3 Checkers win Sunday at Time Warner Cable Arena.
“I hope it’s huge,” said Checkers coach Jeff Daniels of Palushaj’s goal. “In the second period, he had a couple chances to shoot the puck and he (didn’t).”
The goal was Palushaj’s first in December and his seventh overall. It gave the Checkers (11-14-1) their first three-game winning streak of the season, despite an up-and-down performance.
“I thought we got lucky to be honest with you,” said Daniels, whose team gave up leads of 2-0 and 3-2 to Norfolk, which was playing for the third time in three nights. The Admirals “were the better team for me.”
Charlotte jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first period thanks to a power-play goal by Beau Schmitz, his first AHL goal of the season, and some hard work on the forecheck by Brett Sutter to set up Boychuk for his ninth goal in the Checkers past 13 games.
The second period saw the two-goal edge disappear in the span of 54 seconds on goals by Max Friberg (10:31) and Charles Sarault (11:25).
After momentarily regaining the lead on Justin Shugg’s seventh goal of the season, Charlotte again allowed the Admirals (12-8-5) to draw even early in the third period.
The score stayed tied at 3 until Palushaj’s overtime winner thanks to 36 saves by Checkers goaltender John Muse, who won his fifth straight.
“For a long time we had a lot of things go against us,” said Checkers captain Brett Sutter. “We weren’t playing our best hockey, but we’ve seemed to kind of find our stride. They’ve been ugly games, but that’s the way our team is going to have to play to win. We weren’t at our best tonight, so it felt good to pull this one out.“
The Checkers, who are off to a 5-2-0 start to their season-long 10-game home stand, will face the Admirals again Thursday.
1st Period–1, Charlotte, Schmitz 1 (Cornet, Flood), 12:06 (PP). 2, Charlotte, Boychuk 11 (Bre. Sutter, Jordan), 19:49. Penalties–Kurtz Nor (interference), 10:16; Yonkman Nor (holding), 13:25.
2nd Period–3, Norfolk, Friberg 4 (Laganiere, Blacker), 10:31. 4, Norfolk, Sarault 4 (Etem), 11:25. 5, Charlotte, Shugg 7 (Corrente, Rask), 12:39. Penalties–Blacker Nor (cross–checking), 6:10; Jenks Cha (cross–checking), 6:10; Friberg Nor (goaltender interference), 13:34.
3rd Period–6, Norfolk, Etem 3 (Exelby, Steckel), 3:18. Penalties–Shugg Cha (holding), 1:08; Palushaj Cha (cross–checking), 6:29.
OT–7, Charlotte, Palushaj 7 (Jordan), 4:14. Penalties–No Penalties
Shots on Goal–Norfolk 7-13-13-6–39. Charlotte 10-10-5-2–27. Power Play Opportunities–Norfolk 0-2; Charlotte 1-3. Goalies–Norfolk, Gibson 9–6–3 (27 shots–23 saves). Charlotte, Muse 9–6–0 (39 shots–36 saves). A–4,322
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