Overtime began, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was under siege.
The Penguins had already watched a two-goal lead evaporate in Friday’s Game 1 of their first-round showdown in Charlotte. And the host Checkers weren’t about to lose the momentum in the extra frame.
Brenden Kichton’s shot from the right point was tipped in by Lucas Wallmark, completing Charlotte’s comeback for a 3-2 victory just 3:18 into overtime. The Penguins, who took a 2-0 lead into the third period, were outshot 5-0 in those three-plus minutes and outshot 38-27 for the game.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton argued for goaltender interference on the play as Tristan Jarry ended up on his back after one player from each side jousted for position in front of him, but the goal stood.
Trailing 1-0 in the best-of-five series, the Penguins will look to even it up when the teams meet again for Game 2 in Charlotte at 6 p.m. Saturday. The series moves back to Wilkes-Barre Township on Thursday.
The Penguins had a strong start in a whistle-filled game, killing off three straight Charlotte power plays before converting on one of their own. Andrey Pedan opened the scoring by blasting a shot from the left point past Checkers goalie Alex Nedeljkovic for a 1-0 lead late in the first period.
Leading scorer Daniel Sprong added to the advantage in the second period with a what could have been a back-breaking goal. The rookie shot it right from center ice while in the middle of four Charlotte players, and the puck went right through Nedeljkovic for a 2-0 lead.
But things slipped away from the Penguins in the third.
Aleksi Saarela was the first to beat Jarry at the 6:32 mark. From there, a tripping penalty on Pedan led to the game-tying goal as Charlotte capitalized on a bad clear and top scorer Valentin Zykov made it 2-2.
Upset with the officials, the Penguins were whistled for cross checking when Zykov scored as Chris Summers went to the box. Garrett Wilson was also assessed a 10-minute misconduct and sent off for the rest of regulation. The Checkers had seven power plays on the night, scoring once. The Penguins finished 1 for 3 with the man-advantage.
Jarry kept Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the game, finishing with 35 saves, but the Penguins couldn’t take advantage, putting them in an early postseason hole with another road game up next.
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