Barons pull away, take out Checkers

Game 5

( — The Charlotte Checkers’ season ended earlier than they wanted it to, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

Despite outshooting Oklahoma City by a 51-28 margin, tying their second-highest shot total of the entire season, the Checkers fell by a 6-2 score in the winner-take-all Game 5 of their first-round playoff series.

The loss marked the second consecutive night that Charlotte was unable to put away the Barons, who won two of the last three games at Time Warner Cable Arena.

“There was no quit,” said coach Jeff Daniels. “We put up 51 shots and couldn’t find the back of the net.”

“I don’t think there was any quit in our game for sure,” agreed captain Brett Sutter. “It’s tough to put into words right now. It’s pretty disappointing.”

Veteran goaltender Yann Danis upstaged Charlotte rookie Rob Madore in the final game of the series, with Madore making an early exit for the second game in a row after allowing four goals on 17 shots. John Muse entered the game for the first time this series and made 11 saves on 12 Oklahoma City attempts.

Danis, who gave up six goals in Charlotte’s Game 3 victory on Wednesday that put the Checkers within striking distance of the second round, stopped 73 of 76 shots over the series’ final two games.

The Barons didn’t pull away until the second period, when Teemu Hartikainen broke a 2-2 tie with a wrist shot from the right circle at 9:57. Less than two minutes later, Oklahoma City captain Josh Green scored on a wraparound, with his shot hitting Madore in the left pad before squirting into the net.

That prompted Daniels to make his goaltending change, with Muse, who had only recently resumed skating after an injury that kept him out of the lineup for the first four games of the series, getting beaten by Toni Rajala on a two-on-one break less than five minutes after he entered the game.

Down 5-2, Charlotte outshot the Barons 19-7 in the third period but was unable to beat Danis, who was consistently well-positioned and kept rebound chances to a minimum.

The Checkers were happy with their start and their ability to put Friday’s 8-1 loss, the worst in team history, behind them. They got the first goal when Nicolas Blanchard intercepted an outlet pass by Barons defenseman Andrew Hotham and fed Riley Nash in the slot for a quick strike at 10:56.

And when the Barons fired back with two goals in 40 seconds to test the Checkers’ resolve, the home team answered when Bobby Raymond took a back-door pass from Brody Sutter just after a Charlotte power play had expired to tie the game at 2-2.

“It could have been our best 20 [minutes],” said Daniels of the opening period. “We put (Friday’s) game behind us and started the right way.”

After outscoring the Checkers 14-3 over the final two games of the series, Oklahoma City moves on to face Texas in the Western Conference semifinals. Game 1 is Thursday in Cedar Park.