Two hot streaks – one slightly longer than the other – were put on the line Tuesday night when the Grand Rapids Griffins and Charlotte Checkers went head to head.
In the end, it was the Griffins who saw their points streak stretched to a remarkable 16 games (13-0-3) with a 3-2 win against the Checkers in front of 3,917 at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Charlotte – which got goals from Brock McGinn and Brendan Woods to go along with 24 saves from Drew MacIntyre – fell for the second time in its past seven home games.
Had the Griffins (36-17-6-1), who sit atop the Western Conference standings, lost, it would have marked the first time they had failed to earn a point since a 4-0 loss to Milwaukee on Jan. 31.
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With a playoff berth no longer an option for the Checkers (23-31-5-1), the possibility of ending Grand Rapids’ streak added excitement to Tuesday’s game.
“No matter what, everybody in the room’s got something to play for whether the playoffs are looking minimal or not,” said Zach Boychuk, who extended his points streak to five games (three goals, three assists) with a third-period assist.
“Guys want to get better every day and to play a team like that, that is so hot, you want to be that team that knocks them off and gets two points from them.”
After scouting the Griffins, the Checkers came out looking to limit turnovers, get pucks behind the Grand Rapids’ defense and be aggressive on the forecheck.
In the first period, they followed that plan and were rewarded when McGinn gave them a 1-0 lead seven minutes in with a power-play goal set up by a cross-ice feed from Ben Holmstrom.
However, the Griffins – who boast four players (Andy Miele, Mitch Callahan, Landon Ferraro and Nathan Paetsch) with more points than any Checkers player – rallied to score the next three goals.
Charlotte regained its composure in the third period when Woods’ 10th goal of the season cut the Griffins’ lead to 3-2 with seven minutes left, and with MacIntyre off for an extra man for the final two minutes, the Checkers came tantalizingly close to tying the score on several occasions.
“We kind of got away from (our game plan) in that second period,” said Woods. “And in the end, we decided to work the last 10 minutes instead of doing that for a full 60.”
The Checkers will have a day to practice before getting another shot at the Griffins at 7 p.m. Thursday in the final game of their five-game home stand.
“We’ve just got to work hard going into (Wednesday’s) practice,” said Boychuk. “We’ve got to get back to what we were doing right. … We’re not the most skilled team, so we have to out-work the other team and tonight they out-worked us and their skill took over.”