Keegan Lowe spent Saturday watching the Checkers win from the stands.
After finding himself a healthy scratch for the first time during his professional career, the defenseman arrived Sunday at Time Warner Cable Arena determined to make his presence felt.
The Checkers, however, came out of the gate flat against the Norfolk Admirals and found themselves trailing 2-0 just 10 minutes, 22 seconds in.
Knowing the Checkers – who were playing for the third time in three days – needed a spark, Lowe dropped his gloves and squared off with Norfolk center Joseph Cramarossa.
The two went punch-for-punch before Lowe sent Cramarossa to the ice with one last punch.
From that point, Charlotte outscored the Admirals 3-1, before eventually claiming the 4-3 shootout victory in front of a crowd of 6,784.
“We weren’t playing with much emotion for the first four five minutes, and then Keegan took it upon himself to give the team a spark,” Checkers coach Jeff Daniels said. “He was upset that he didn’t play (Saturday), and he came out and played with an edge and he was a big part of the win (Sunday).”
The Checkers put a season-high 53 shots on Norfolk goalie Brad Thiessen, who turned away 49 despite Sunday being his first game in more than a month.
“Thiessen’s a good goalie,” said Checkers goaltender John Muse, who finished the game with 36 saves. “I’ve played against him since we were both in college, and he’s always been real tough to beat.”
Aaron Palushaj got the scoring started for the Checkers when he sent a wrist shot past Thiessen with three seconds remaining in a Checkers power play late in the first period.
In the second period, Mark Flood’s ninth goal – also on a Checkers power player – evened the score at 2.
With time running down in the second, Charlotte’s Philippe Cornet was sent off for high-sticking. The penalty carried over into the third period and resulted in a goal by Alex Grant that put the Admirals ahead 3-2 1:26 in.
Despite the goal, Charlotte remained in control and went on to set a season high in shots for a period, with 23.
With the consistent pressure the Checkers put on Thiessen during the third, it began to feel as if it were just a matter of time before they’d even the score.
And with a little under six minutes to play, newly acquired Greg Nemisz did just that, batting the puck into the back of the Norfolk net on his third swipe at it.
“We had a really good third period, and it felt like we were building the whole time,” Nemisz said. “Their goalie made a couple big saves, but we just stuck with it.”
The goal was Nemisz’s first with the Checkers. He has five points in four games for Charlotte.
“He has very quietly been a real solid player for us in all situations,” Daniels said of Nemisz, who was drafted 25th overall in 2008. “Obviously, he’s had more of a defensive role with us, but he’s a guy I wouldn’t hesitate to put up on the power play to create some offense.
“He’s a guy with a track record of a lot of points as a junior. It hasn’t happened in pro yet, but he’s still a young guy, and I think the change has been good for him.”
After 11 more minutes of scoreless play, the game went to a shootout. It was only the second shootout this season for Charlotte, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell as Matthew Pistilli, Palushaj and Chris Terry scored to give the Checkers a 3-2 edge.
“It’s been a while, but we work on (shootouts) in practice, and we’re always doing them,” said Muse, who was in net for the third game in a row after entering Friday night’s loss in relief of Mike Murphy. “It’s nothing new.”
The Checkers have won two in a row since a 7-1 loss Friday to Texas and are back to .500 (19-19-1) for the first time since Nov. 7.
“That was a good bounce back after a tough night” Friday, Daniels said. “It was one game. We didn’t want to dwell on it. We wanted to move on. We talked about the good one last night, and (Sunday) was about getting back to .500 and moving on from there.”
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