Playing their third game in four nights, the Charlotte Checkers simply ran out of gas late on Tuesday after jumping out to an early lead.
Rickard Rakell tipped home the game-winning goal during the three-on-three portion of overtime, to give the Norfolk Admirals a, 3-2, come-from-behind win over a tired group of Checkers in front of 3,332 at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The goal for Rakell (one goal, two assists) – who was assigned to the Admirals from the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks early in the day – completed a comeback that began with Norfolk trailing, 2-0, and three minutes and eight seconds remaining in regulation.
The Checkers (7-11-2) entered Tuesday night coming off back-to-back wins over the Milwaukee Admirals on Saturday and Sunday and looking to secure all six possible points this week before hosting Iowa this coming weekend.
“It’s tough,” said Checkers center Brendan Woods, who netted his third goal of the season in the loss. “It would have been great to come out with six points, but we can’t dwell on that. We’ve got to move forward.
“We’ve got a day off tomorrow, so we’ll give the body a little rest, and come Thursday (we’ll be) ready to go for Iowa.”
Charlotte forward Justin Shugg got the scoring started fast on Tuesday, batting home the rebound from a Brock McGinn shot for his sixth goal in nine games since returning from a concussion, 25 seconds into the first period.
The goal – which extended Shugg and McGinn’s (assist) current-point streaks to three games – was the fastest this season for the Checkers, passing Phil Di Giuseppe’s strike at the one-minute, 24-second mark on Oct. 24 in Iowa.
In the second period, the Checkers relied heavily on their special teams and were rewarded when Woods scored a short-handed breakaway goal.
It was Woods’ second short-handed goal of the season and the Checkers first since Greg Nemisz victimized Norfolk back on Nov. 18.
But as the game progressed, it became more and more clear that Norfolk had the fresher legs.
The Admirals (9-12-0) outshot the Checkers 50-20 on the night and 38-12 in the second, third, and overtime periods combined.
Once Nic Kerdiles (two goals) cut the Checkers lead to 2-1 with just over two minutes remaining, the writing was on the wall.
With 48 seconds to play, Kerdiles was credited with the equalizer, although the puck appeared to bounce past goaltender John Muse (47 saves) off Checkers defenseman Rasmus Rissanen.
“It wasn’t (just at the end of) regulation,” said Checkers coach Jeff Daniels, whose team saw it’s four-game winning streak at home snapped. “It was the whole game. We just got outworked and got what we deserved.
“We’ll take tomorrow off,” Daniels continued. “We played three games in four days and it showed a little bit. But, we’ll take off and move on from this game and get ready for Iowa Saturday night.”
First Period–1, Charlotte, Shugg 7 (McGinn, Murphy), 0:25. Penalties–Cantin, N (tripping), 18:39.
Second Period–2, Charlotte, Woods 3 (Terry), 5:36 (sh). Penalties-Carrick, C (high-sticking), 3:49; Lowe, C (cross-checking), 8:27; Nightingale, N (fighting major), 11:22; Hagel, C (fighting major), 11:22; Sandlak, C (boarding), 11:22.
Third Period–3, Norfolk, Kerdiles 4 (Rakell, Wagner), 17:52. 4, Norfolk, Kerdiles 5 (Rakell, Wagner), 19:22. Penalties–Laganiere, N (boarding, roughing), 3:50; MacDonald, N (fighting major), 3:50; Sandlak, C (roughing), 3:50; Woods, C (fighting major), 3:50; Steckel, N (goaltender interference), 5:12; O’Brien, N (roughing), 8:16; Terry, C (slashing), 8:16; LaRose, C (tripping), 9:03; Steckel, N (high-sticking double minor), 12:53.
Overtime–5, Norfolk, Rakell 1 (Friberg), 6:52. Penalties–None.
Shots on goal–Norfolk 12-19-13-6–50. Charlotte 8-6-4-2–20. Goalies–Norfolk, Danis 4-4-0 (20 shots-18 saves). Charlotte, Muse 1-3-0 (50-47saves). Att.–3,332 (at Charlotte).