Charlotte Checkers goalie Mike Murphy on May 4, 2011. (photo by LTD)
The Checkers knew that a win on Wednesday night would give them a commanding 3-1 lead over the regular season powerhouse Penguins. After an overtime loss 2-1 on Monday night, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins looked to respond and even the series backed by Brad Thiessen once again. Thiessen and Charlotte's Mike Murphy engaged in another epic goaltender's duel that made a hero out of Murphy. Murphy's final saves mark stood at 44 after the night was over. What that number doesn't show, is all of the timely stops Murphy made in key situations. The details after the jump.
Just under 4,500 fans were in attendance on Wednesday to see one of the better goaltending performances that a goaltender can put together. The first period held plenty of physicality, but alas- no goals. The Penguins fired 14 shots in the period, while the Checkers managed 11. Both teams had two powerplay chances a piece, but both goaltenders were sharp.
The second period brought no scoring either. More powerplay chances went both ways, including an extended 5 on 3 for the Penguins that Murphy and the Checkers promptly dispatched. After Chris Terry and Brett Sutter were charged with slashing penalties, Murphy was put to the test for a shade under a minute. Key blocks were the story all night, and they were certainly instrumental in the Charlotte PK this night, as they held the Penguins 0/5 on the powerplay for the second straight night.
The third period would finally allow a goal to sneak by the red hot Brad Thiessen. Ten seconds into the final period, Wilkes-Barre's Kevin Veilleux took a tripping penalty that put the Checkers on a key powerplay. Charlotte snapped the puck around the zone for a while, before Matsumoto got the puck to the point to captain Bryan Rodney. Rodney faked a slap shot, and found Chris Terry open to the left of Thiessen just above the faceoff circle. Terry ripped a slapshot that went through the traffic of two Penguins who collided in front of Thiessen and Riley Nash, and into the back of the net behind Thiessen. The goal ignited the crowd and gave the Checkers a lead that they would sustain for the remainder of the game en route to a thrilling 1-0 victory.
Murphy certainly earned his pay on this night. His body of work combined with a talented Checker's squad in front of him, has put the rest of the playoff field on alert. Watch out for Charlotte. After knocking out the defending champion Bears, the Checkers now have their sights set on a Penguins team that has now been pushed to the absolute limit. With a 3-1 lead in hand, Charlotte looks to burry the Pens on Friday night in Time Warner Cable Arena. Could an early lead in an elimination game knock the Penguins off of their game? It will be a great night for hockey in Charlotte tomorrow, and the Checkers would love to wrap it up with no travel necessary in the series. The Checkers will play the winner of the series between the Portland Pirates and Binghamton Senators should they advance.
1. Mike Murphy 44 Saves, SO
2. Brad Thiessen 31 saves, 32 shots
3. Chris Terry 1 g, GWG
PP- WBS- 0/5 CHA-1/5
Quote of the night- "I can't tell you how great the city is to me. I mean, it was so nice to move here, and all the support they give us. and you know, Every single night I want to win for the guys in the dressing room and for the city of Charlotte, they're the best." -Mike Murphy
Post Game Quotes: