CHARLOTTE 4, WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 3
Charlotte dug itself a 3-0 hole by early in the third period but then erupted for four unanswered goals to take a shocking 4-3 road win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday, eliminating the AHL regular-season champion Penguins in six games and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
In their first AHL campaign, the Checkers will now take on Binghamton for the right to play for the 2011 Calder Cup championship. That series begins on Thursday and Friday nights in Charlotte.
The Checkers entered the third period of this contest trailing by a 2-0 margin, and Penguins forward Joe Vitale made it 3-0 with a shorthanded marker only 1:13 in.
But then Charlotte, which had combined to score only three goals in Games 2 through 5 of this series, finally found its offensive touch in a big way down the stretch. Chris Terry got the rally going 7:24 into the third period, and then Brett Sutter (10:40) and Terry (11:10) scored just 30 seconds apart to tie the game at 3-3.
That set the stage for AHL All-Rookie forward Zac Dalpe to bury the game-winning goal with 3:18 left in regulation. Dalpe’s fifth goal of the postseason was assisted by Sutter and fellow forward Matthew Pistilli.
Sutter finished with a game-high three points (1-2-3) for the Checkers, who ousted the Penguins one round after knocking off the two-time defending Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears in the division semifinals.
Charlotte goaltender Mike Murphy stopped 32 of 35 shots to improve to 7-3 in 10 playoff appearances this spring.
Ryan Craig and defenseman Corey Potter notched second-period goals for the Penguins, who were eliminated on home ice for the second consecutive year after going 6-0 in their previous six elimination games at Mohegan Sun Arena.
AHL goaltender of the year Brad Thiessen made 29 stops in the losing effort but allowed four goals in a game for the first time in 12 postseason outings. Prior to surrendering four third-period goals on Saturday, the Penguins had outscored opponents 10-5 in the final 20 minutes of regulation during these playoffs.
East Division Finals – Series “J” (best-of-7)
E1-W-B/Scranton Penguins vs. E3-Charlotte Checkers || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 28 – Charlotte 3, W-B/SCRANTON 2
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 30 – W-B/SCRANTON 3, Charlotte 0
Game 3 – Mon., May 2 – CHARLOTTE 2, W-B/Scranton 1 (OT)
Game 4 – Wed., May 4 – CHARLOTTE 1, W-B/Scranton 0
Game 5 – Fri., May 6 – W-B/Scranton 1, CHARLOTTE 0
Game 6 – Sat., May 7 – Charlotte 4, W-B/SCRANTON 3