Checkers take series lead with Game 3 victory

Photo: Ross Dettman

ROSEMONT, Ill. (theahl.com) … Alex Nedeljkovic made 38 saves to lead Charlotte to a 4-1 victory over Chicago in Game 3 of the Calder Cup Finals at Allstate Arena on Wednesday night.

The teams go back at it on Thursday night in Game 4 (8 p.m. ET, AHLTV) with the Checkers up two games to one.

After getting Game 2 off on Sunday following an overtime loss in Game 1 the previous night, Nedeljkovic showed why he was voted the AHL’s top goaltender during the regular season, keeping the Wolves at bay as Chicago fired 39 shots on net.

Charlotte broke through with the game’s first goal for the third time in the series, taking a 1-0 lead just 1:51 into the contest. Julien Gauthier, returning to the lineup after missing Games 1 and 2, redirected a shot from the left point by Jake Bean that slipped past Oscar Dansk for his fifth goal of the playoffs.

The Checkers took the 1-0 lead to the locker room after 20 minutes despite being outshot 15-6, including 15-2 over the final 17-plus minutes.

Charlotte doubled its advantage at 2:16 of the second period when Bean wristed a shot from the center point that got through traffic and beat Dansk for a power-play goal. It was the first marker of the playoffs for Bean, an AHL All-Rookie selection during the regular season.

After seeing Chicago erase two-goal leads in the first two games, Charlotte grabbed a 3-0 lead in Game 3 when Patrick Brown stole the puck at center ice and converted on a breakaway at 11:46, the Checkers’ sixth shorthanded goal in their last six games.

The Wolves spoiled Nedeljkovic’s shutout bid with 5:11 to play in regulation when Brooks Macek knocked in a rebound of Zach Whitecloud‘s wrister for his third goal of the playoffs.

But Charlotte sealed the victory with an empty-net goal as Martin Necas scored with 3:05 remaining.

Bean (1g, 1a), Brown (1g, 1a), Necas (1g, 1a) and Tomas Jurco (2a) all had two-point nights for the Checkers.

Dansk finished with 22 saves in net for the Wolves.

NOTES: Charlotte’s game-opening goals in the series have all come within the first four minutes of play (2:19, 3:50, 1:51)… Nedeljkovic’s 38 saves represented a career high for a regulation game… Chicago was without alternate captain Curtis McKenzie, who served a one-game league suspension… Macek’s goal for Chicago was his first in 13 games… The Wolves held Charlotte’s top line of Andrew Poturalski, Morgan Geekie and Aleksi Saarela off the scoresheet in Game 3; Poturalski’s empty-net goal in Game 2 is that trio’s only point over the last two contests… Charlotte was 1-for-2 on the power play, while Chicago was 0-for-3.

2019 Calder Cup Finals (best-of-7)
A1-Charlotte Checkers vs. C1-Chicago Wolves | Series Infographic
Game 1 – Sat., June 1 – Chicago 4, CHARLOTTE 3 (OT) | Recap/Highlights
Game 2 – Sun., June 2 – CHARLOTTE 5, Chicago 3 | Recap/Highlights
Game 3 – Wed., June 5 – Charlotte 4, CHICAGO 1
Game 4 – Thu., June 6 – Charlotte at Chicago, 8:00, AHLTV, NHL Network**
Game 5 – Sat., June 8 – Charlotte at Chicago, 8:00, AHLTV, NHL Network
*Game 6 – Thu., June 13 – Chicago at Charlotte, 7:00, AHLTV, NHL Network
*Game 7 – Fri., June 14 – Chicago at Charlotte, 7:00, AHLTV, NHL Network
*if necessary… All times Eastern
**delayed broadcast