Checkers Mount Stunning Comeback to Win Game 2
CHARLOTTE, NC - On the verge of falling into a two-game hole in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Checkers scored five unanswered goals to stage a stunning rally and capture Game 2 by a 5-3 score.
The Marlies controlled things early on, pumping in a pair of tallies in the opening frame and another early on in the second to jump out to a sizeable 3-0 lead. The Checkers tried to reset things from there by making a switch at goalie, with veteran Dustin Tokarski taking over between the pipes.
Charlotte got the spark it was looking for late in the second when Tomas Jurco redirected a shot in to put the home side on the board heading into the second intermission. The Checkers continued to buzz into the third period, breaking through with a pair of strikes just 69 seconds apart - first with Nicolas Roy finding the back of the net and then Jesper Sellgren threading in his first North American tally to deadlock the score at three.
The ice tilted in the Checkers' favor from that point, with the home team outshooting Toronto 11-3 in the third while mounting near continuous pressure. With just under two minutes to play, the Checkers' top line broke through as Andrew Poturalski threw a puck through traffic and beat Kasimir Kaskisuo to give Charlotte its first lead of the night. The Checkers never relented from there, keeping the Marlies at bay and tacking on an empty-netter to seal the thrilling comeback victory and even the series at one.
Coach Mike Vellucci on the comeback
The key was that we stayed positive. We're down 3-0 but it is what it is. Let's stay positive and let's root our teammates on. In the third we talked about how good it's going to feel when we win this game. I give the guys a lot of credit because they stayed together as a team, there was no complaining and everyone was rooting everybody on. You saw when Sellgren scored his first goal how everybody was so excited. That's what being a team is all about.
Vellucci on gaining momentum as the game went on
Momentum can change in an instant. I've always said it doesn't matter what happens to you, it's how you deal with what happens to you. We dealt with it the right way.
Vellucci on making a goaltending change
It was all momentum. It had nothing to do with Ned. Ned is our goalie and has always been our goalie. That was totally momentum changing to slow the game down a little bit. If you saw, Ned had two or three breakaways that he saved. When you're down, you're going to take some more risks and both goalies made some big saves.
Vellucci on the atmosphere during the comeback
It was pretty amazing. We've had a couple of comebacks here in this building and obviously that was the loudest. It was pretty special. My job is to keep everybody calm and it was tough after we went up.
Tomas Jurco on the comeback
It was a little more quiet at first but I think we did a great job to step up. It was a big moment to come back and score that goal and turn it around. These comebacks aren't easy and it takes a good team to do it. I think we were a great team tonight in the second half and third period.
Jurco on when the game started to turn
To score those quick goals, it's all about momentum. When you gain it back, the game is easier. Out of nowhere, the game is just easier. Once we scored a couple it was going our way and you see the result.
Andrew Poturalski on the comeback
Our mentality is just to stay positive all year. We really didn't have much to lose there being down two, so we might as well just give it all we got. We just stayed positive, got a couple of bounces and went from there. When we got that crowd involved it was definitely awesome. Once we got the one, you could tell the momentum was starting to shift in our direction. We wanted to keep that on our side and stay on top of them.
Poturalski on the crowd
When the crowd is going like that and you're in the heat of the battle in the Eastern Conference Finals, you're not thinking about any injuries. You're just out there battling for you brothers.
Dustin Tokarski on entering the game in the second period
That's hockey. That was a heck of a hockey game. It was just a momentum change that worked out for us. An old-school tactic and you never know. The guys battled back, stuck together and never quit and we got the result we wanted.
This was the Checkers' first ever victory in a conference final game. The team suffered a four-game sweep in their only previous appearance in 2011 ... This marks the second time the Checkers erased a three-goal deficit in a playoff game. They scored four goals in the third period to defeat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on May 7, 2011, and win that series in six games ... This was the Marlies' first loss of the postseason. They are now 8-1, while the Checkers are 8-2 ... The Checkers still have not lost consecutive games in regulation at home all season ... Tokarski improved to 9-0-0 as a Checker. He has allowed just nine total goals in nine games played ... Trevor Carrick extended his assist/point streak to six games (6a) ... Haydn Fleury has points in six consecutive AHL games dating back to the regular season (1g, 6a) ... Forward Aleksi Saarela missed the game due to injury ... Forwards Scott Davidson, Stelio Mattheos, Jacob Pritchard and Zack Stortini, and defensemen Roland McKeown, Dennis Robertson and Eric Williams were healthy extras.
The Eastern Conference Finals now moves to Toronto for Game 3 on Tuesday.
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American Hockey League Stories from May 18, 2019
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