Through four periods of play against the Stars in two nights, the Checkers’ penalty kill looked completely overmatched against Texas’ top-ranked power play.
In Thursday’s loss, the Stars scored goals on their only two chances with the man advantage.
Friday’s rematch began almost as poorly, with Charlotte surrendering two more power-play goals in the first period.
However, this time the Checkers (15-18-1) regrouped, thanks to a two-goal effort from Matthew Pistilli and 32 saves from Mike Murphy in a 4-3 win at Time Warner Cable Arena.
“That was a big test for this team against a talented hockey club,” said Murphy, who recorded his first win since Oct. 5. “It wasn’t a lucky win. We went hard for the full 60 (minutes) and that’s huge. Our team has to build off that.”
Given the penalty kill’s struggle, you could almost hear the air come out of the crowd when Brody Sutter was called for holding three minutes and 37 seconds into the second period with the Stars (21-10-5) already leading 2-1.
The Checkers’ penalty kill upped its aggressiveness. It paid off with the team’s first short-handed goal of the season, when Nicolas Blanchard and A.J. Jenks converted a breakaway.
The goal, which went to Blanchard, tied the game at 2-2 and swung momentum back in the Checkers’ direction.
Charlotte then killed off the next five Stars power-play opportunities.
“We made a little adjustment (to the penalty kill),” Checkers coach Jeff Daniels said. “That’s two pretty dangerous units (Texas) had out there. When there was a breakdown, Murphy made some big saves.
Pistilli, who scored the game’s first goal, netted his second on the power play four and a half minutes after Blanchard’s strike to put the Checkers up for good. Newly acquired center Greg Nemisz, playing in his first game for Charlotte, recorded an assist.
Beau Schmitz added what turned out to be an important insurance goal 4:44 into the third period when he sent a slap shot past Stars goaltender Josh Robinson.
Midway through the third, Texas cut the lead to one on Russ Sinkewich’s first goal of the season.
The Checkers’ next two home games will also be against the Stars on Jan. 17 and 18.
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