Zykov's 2 Goals Down T-Birds in OTMar 3, 2018
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (26-28-3-1) pushed back from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime, but fell 3-2 in the end against the Charlotte Checkers (32-24-0-3) on Saturday night at the MassMutual Center.
The Thunderbirds' problem of allowing goals in the early stages of periods continued on Saturday night, as AHL leading goal-scorer Valentin Zykov got loose in the Springfield zone and fired a wrister through Sam Montembeault just 1:50 into the game to make it 1-0 Checkers.
The Checkers' power play entered play 0-for-18 in its last six games, but the Thunderbirds' discipline would haunt them in the first. Springfield killed off back to back penalties for too many men and delay of game before a third Charlotte power play began past the midpoint of the period.
The third time was the charm for Charlotte, as Nicolas Roy set up Aleksi Saarela for the Finnish winger's 20th of the season. The third Checker to hit the 20-goal plateau made it a 2-0 score at 13:21 of the first.
At other end, Jeremy Smith was starting just his second game against Springfield this season, and he came to the rink ready to go, denying an Alex Grenier blast in the opening moments, en route to nine saves on nine shots in period one.
Just as the Thunderbirds did in period one, the Checkers fell victim to penalties in the second, giving Springfield three power play chances in the middle 20 minutes. The Thunderbirds' leading goal scorer made Charlotte pay on the second of those chances, as Anthony Greco picked up the puck from Ludwig Bystrom at the left wing side. The winger quickly spun his body to face the net, and the right-hander snapped a perfect wrist shot over Smith's shoulder to make it a 2-1 game at 7:34.
Montembeault answered Smith's strong first period with his own impressive showing in the second, as he stopped all 13 shots he faced against the Checkers. Included in that batch was a glove save from a slot shot from Janne Kuokkanen, and a last-second denial with the leg pad off of Clark Bishop.
Springfield leaned heavily on Montembeault in the third, but finally tied the score at 10:55. After Max Fortunus found Curtis Valk in the high slot, and Valk quickly spotted Dryden Hunt in the right wing circle. Hunt one-timed the feed past Smith to tie the game, 2-2.
For the third time in the last four home games, the Thunderbirds went to overtime, but on this night, Zykov made sure Springfield would not pick up the extra point. After Greg McKegg danced to the left wing circle, he fired a shot off Montembeault's leg pad. Zykov won the race to the rebound and elevated the puck past Montembeault to seal the 3-2 win just 1:04 into overtime.
The Thunderbirds take to the road to finish their weekend with their fourth Sunday afternoon trip to the Dunkin' Donuts Center against the Bruins. Springfield has won two of the first three Sunday road games in Providence to this point in the season.
Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com to learn more about Thunderbirds Ticket Memberships. Packages include a wide range of benefits, including a refillable collector’s mug. For more information or to order now, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.