The Oklahoma City Barons dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the Charlotte Checkers Friday evening in the first game of the AHL Western Conference Quarterfinal series between the two teams. Charlotte’s Brody Sutter had two goals in his first career AHL playoff game as the Checkers came from behind to secure the win.
Teemu Hartikainen made his return felt early in the game as he worked in on Checkers goaltender Rob Madore but sent the puck just high. The Checkers turned the other way, creating a scramble in front of Barons goaltender Yann Danis. Danis kept the puck out of the net despite a few scoring chances during the scrum.
Oklahoma City got the first power play of the night as Checkers forward Brock McGinn went off for roughing at 3:15. Charlotte held the Barons to just one shot on goal with the man advantage as Toni Rajala’s early slapshot was snapped up by Madore.
Charlotte had a neutral zone takeaway that resulted in a wide-open Zach Boychuk but Chris VandeVelde rebounded to block the shot.
Hartikainen got the game’s first goal at 7:38 as the result of a cross-crease pass from Josh Green. Green got two shots on Madore before expertly passing the puck to Hartikainen who buried it behind the netminder.
Taylor Fedun had two chances to make it 2-0 but his first attempt was batted away by Madore and his second attempt caught Madore out of position but Fedun hit the outside of the post. After a takeaway by the Checkers at center ice, Chris Terry was wide open down the far side but Danis came through with the quick glove save to keep Charlotte off the board.
The Checkers got their only power play of the period as Darcy Hordichuk went off for interference at 13:16. Charlotte never managed to get a shot on goal with the man advantage as Oklahoma City had three shorthanded chances. Oklahoma City led in shots, 13-5 at the first intermission.
Charlotte controlled the second period for 19 minutes, but it was the final minute that found the Checkers trailing at the second intermission. Barons forward Tyler Pitlick went off for elbowing at 1:53 and the Charlotte made good on its second power play of the game as Justin Shugg found the loose puck in the crease and put it top shelf over Danis to tie the game at 2:28. Jeremy Welsh and Riley Nash had the assists on the power play goal that was just the second allowed by Oklahoma City in the last 18 games dating back to the regular season.
The Checkers continued the pressure and actually ended the period out-shooting the Barons 12-11. Boychuk had a shot turned away by Danis’ blocker and Shugg had a backhander go just wide of the net.
Sutter scored his first career AHL playoff goal at 11:17 to give Charlotte a 2-1 lead. Sutter was credited with the goal after his wraparound attempt hit off Barons defenseman and banked in. Matt Marquardt earned the only assist on the goal.
Hartikainen got a partial breakaway but sent the shot high before Mark Arcobello’s turnaround pass to Philippe Cornet was fired just wide of the goal. Charlotte’s intensity was aided by the fact that Oklahoma City did not manage a single shot on goal between the period’s two media timeouts.
Charlotte appeared to be well on the way to a 2-1 lead at end of the period, but Oklahoma City rallied to score two goals 21 seconds apart in the period’s final minute to take the 3-2 lead into the locker room at the intermission.
C.J. Stretch pulled Madore and the Checkers defense out and cut around for a wraparound attempt that went in past Madore who was stretching back to defend the play at 18:24. Green made it 3-2 at 18:45 as he managed to get the puck over Madore after it was flipped in front of the net by Hartikainen.
Charlotte had an abbreviated power play after the third period started with 4-on-4 action. Nash came in on Danis but was stopped point blank. The Checkers got another power play chance as Tanner House went off for slashing at 2:18.
Boychuk fired a shot from the near circle that found its way and past Danis as the Checkers tied the game at 3-3 at 2:32. Boychuck now has a goal in four straight games as Bobby Raymond and Ryan Murphy earned their first points of the postseason.
Madore stood tall as Oklahoma City went back on the power play as Brett Bellemore went off for high sticking at 5:10. Madore turned away shots by both Jonathan Cheechoo and Garrett Stafford as the Checkers successfully killed the penalty.
Charlotte went back on the power play at 11:00 as VandeVelde was sent off for cross-checking. The Checkers’ best chance came as Terry’s wrister was gloved by Danis. Just after the penalty expired, Danis made a sprawling save and held his glove hand outside the net to keep Charlotte from taking the lead.
After a flurry of action on the Charlotte offensive end, Oklahoma City ran the other way to pepper Madore with a bevy of shots late in the period. Welsh had a chance late as he tried to go stick side on Danis and then missed the net with a second attempt.
After the barrage of shots, each team recorded nine in the period, as Oklahoma City led 33-26 heading to the extra period.
Sutter tipped in a Bellemore point shot 3:06 into the extra period to give the Checkers a 4-3 win and a 1-0 series lead. Oklahoma City held a 33-28 shots on goal lead to end the game. Game two of the series is Saturday night in Oklahoma City.
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