Despite scoring three goals for the third consecutive game, the Charlotte Checkers opened the New Year with a 5-3 loss to the Texas Stars on Thursday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The Checkers (14-18-1) took a 3-1 lead early in the second period to the delight of the 5,677 on hand, before surrendering four unanswered goals to the Stars, who entered the game second in the league in scoring (3.53 goals a game).
The comeback win was the second in as many games for the Stars (21-9-5). Texas came back from a four-goal deficit to defeat Oklahoma City 6-5 in overtime on New Year’s Eve.
“Nothing really changed (from the second to the third period),” said Checkers coach Jeff Daniels, whose squad was outshot 38-32. “We just made a couple mistakes and they kept coming the whole game.”
John Muse did what he could to keep the Checkers ahead, stopping 33 shots, but goals by Travis Morin and Mike Hedden exactly one minute apart in the third evened the game and then put it away for the Stars.
“(Muse) made some big saves in the second and third to keep us in the game,” Daniels said. “They’re a potent team and they showed that tonight. They just come and come. We’ve got to be better.”
Both Morin and Hedden finished the game with two goals for Texas.
Thursday’s loss was just the sixth conference game of the season for the Checkers and marked the beginning of a stretch where they’ll play eight of nine against Western Conference foes in a stretch that could make or break the season.
“It was a test for us tonight and, obviously, we didn’t pass,” Daniels said. “I think if they’re not the best team in the West, then they’re in the top two and they showed that.”
A.J. Jenks helped start the scoring when he picked off a Stars pass in the offensive zone and quickly found Philippe Cornet with a cross ice feed that left him starring at nothing but empty net to put the Checkers up 1-0 in the first.
After a Texas goal, Brendan Woods scored his fourth goal of the season, threading a soft wrist shot past Christopher Nilstorp (29 saves), who appeared to be screened on the shot.
Chris Terry then put the Checkers up 3-1 with a power play goal 46 seconds into the second period, but that was the end of the scoring for Charlotte.
The Stars entered the night with the league’s top power play (29.4 percent) and showed why when they scored easily on both of their chances.
Terry, who finished the game a minus-1, made no effort to hide his frustration after the loss.
“It’s unacceptable,” he said. “We’re in the second half of the season and we let go of a 3-2 lead against the top team in our conference. We needed these two points and two goals in a minute … is just something that can’t happen.”
The Stars and Checkers will conclude their series Friday at 7 p.m.
Notes: Newly acquired 23-year-old center Greg Nemisz (selected 25th overall in 2008) is expected to make his debut later this week. As a Canadian player who has never played for an American team, Nemisz is still going through the immigration process (which has been slowed due to the holidays). In 32 games this season with the Abbotsford Heat, Nemisz has five goals and four assists. … With an assist on Terry’s goal, Checkers forward Aaron Palushaj pulled ahead of Zach Boychuk for the team lead in points with 28 (nine goals, 19 assists). … Texas played without its second-leading scorer, Colton Sceviour, on Thursday after the forward was called up to Dallas.
First Period—1, Charlotte, Cornet 4 (Jenks), 6:13. 2, Texas, Morin 17 (Mueller), 11:03. 3, Charlotte, Woods 4 (Flood, Marquardt), 17:54. Penalties—Wathier Tex (boarding), 20:00.
Second Period—4, Charlotte, Terry 13 (Shugg, Palushaj), 0:46 (PP). 5, Texas, Stransky 4 (Hedden, Ritchie), 6:21 (PP). Penalties—Hedden Tex (hooking), 0:54; Shugg Cha (holding the stick), 5:45; McKenzie Tex (delay of game), 19:17.
Third Period—6, Texas, Morin 18 (Ranford, Stransky), 10:39. 7, Texas, Hedden 12 11:39. 8, Texas, Hedden 13 (Ritchie, Dowling), 16:58 (PP). Penalties—Schmitz Cha (hooking), 16:37; Wathier Tex (tripping), 19:54. Shots on Goal—Buffalo 7-5-8—20. Minnesota 8-15-8—31.
Shots on Goal—Texas 14-12-12-38. Charlotte 9-17-6-32.
Power-play opportunities—Texas 2 of 2; Charlotte 1 of 4.
Goalies—Texas, Nilstorp 10-9-2 (32 shots-29 saves). Charlotte, Muse 11-8-0 (38 shots-33 saves).
A—5,677 Referees—T.J. Luxmore (49), Ryan Hersey (8). Linesmen—Jesse Pletsch (51), Zachary Thornton (78).
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