Shorthanded goals lift Checkers to Game 5 win

Photo: Christian Bonin

Three goals in a span of 3:31 over the first and second periods was enough to send Charlotte to a 4-1 win over Toronto in Game 5 of the AHL’s Eastern Conference Finals at Coca-Cola Coliseum on Friday night.

With a 3-2 series lead, the Checkers return home for Game 6 on Sunday with a chance to advance to their first Calder Cup Finals.

Dustin Tokarski (3-0) made 40 saves in his first start of the series, and improved to 10-0-0 in a Checkers uniform.

Trevor Moore staked the host Marlies to a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal 10:40 into the opening period, converting a rebound off Jeremy Bracco‘s initial shot.

Toronto had another power play opportunity late in the period with a chance to build on the lead, but Nicolas Roy stole the puck at the Checkers blue line, raced the other way and bagged his second shorthanded goal in as many nights, tying the game with 59 seconds left in the frame.

Steven Lorentz put Charlotte in front on the opening shift of the second period, deflecting a shot by Stelio Mattheos that trickled through Michael Hutchinson just 18 seconds in.

Then at 2:32, Patrick Brown took off on a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush and found Haydn Fleury trailing the play. Fleury snapped a shot past Hutchinson to make it 3-1 in favor of the Checkers.

Clark Bishop capped the win by scoring an empty-net goal with 1:55 to go.

With the win, Tokarski improved his record to 18-7 with a 1.76 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage in 28 career postseason appearances in the AHL. He has a .961 save percentage in his 10 games with Charlotte, allowing a total of 10 goals on 256 shots.

Hutchinson (0-1), who worked a period of relief in Game 3, made 20 saves in his first start since Apr. 4.

Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
A1-Charlotte Checkers vs. N3-Toronto Marlies
Game 1 – Fri., May 17 – Toronto 2, CHARLOTTE 1 | Recap/Highlights
Game 2 – Sat., May 18 – CHARLOTTE 5, Toronto 3 | Recap/Highlights
Game 3 – Tue., May 21 – Charlotte 5, TORONTO 1 | Recap/Highlights
Game 4 – Thu., May 23 – TORONTO 4, Charlotte 3 (OT) | Recap/Highlights
Game 5 – Fri., May 24 – Charlotte 4, TORONTO 1
Game 6 – Sun., May 26 – Toronto at Charlotte, 7:00, AHLTV
*Game 7 – Tue., May 28 – Toronto at Charlotte, 7:00, AHLTV
*if necessary… All times Eastern