The Checkers nearly rallied in Game 1 of the Atlantic Division First Round, but a costly stretch in the middle frame sunk them in a 4-3 loss to Lehigh Valley.

Each side found the back of the net in an evenly contested first, with Lucas Carlsson keeping his scoring touch going to open the scoring and Adam Brooks responding for the visitors minutes later.

It was the first five minutes of the second, however, that proved to be the difference. Lehigh Valley came out firing and took the lead 49 ticks into the period, then tacked on another just 13 seconds after that. The Phantoms took the opportunity to pounce on a reeling Checkers team from there, as Tyson Foerster cashed in his second goal of the night before five minutes had elapsed in the second - blowing open the contest into a 4-1 Phantoms lead and chasing starter Mack Guzda from the game.

Charlotte turned the tide in the third, with Riley Nash converting in close on a man advantage midway through the frame to provide a spark and Santtu Kinnunen lighting the lamp 38 seconds later to pull the home side back within one.

The Checkers continued to push down the stretch - outshooting the Phantoms 15-5 in the third - but they couldn’t quite find the equalizer before the final horn sounded, signaling the Game 1 defeat and setting up two do-or-die contests ahead this week.


Coach Geordie Kinnear on the game
The second period cost us. The back-to-back goals is something you can’t do in the playoffs. In playoffs, momentum is a big thing. You can give up the one, but you can’t give up back to back like that.

Kinnear on getting to within one in the third
We started to see how we want to play and how we normally play. Obviously we’re down so we’re going to push a little bit more, but that’s how we play normally. I think some guys found their game in the third period a little bit and built momentum, and that’s what it’s about in the playoffs. You have to continually get better as individuals and as a group. We’re looking for a good response on Thursday.

Kinnear on the message for Game 2
Let’s play how we normally play all the way through. For some reason, that second period, I’m not sure if it was nerves or what, but we didn’t see how we normally play. That’s getting in on the forecheck on top of people. We kind of sat back and watched the speed come at us. We normally don’t play that way. We want to correct the second period and get back to how we want to play for 60, or however long it takes.

Kinnear on Gerry Mayhew leaving the game due to injury
It's not good. We’ll see how it goes. I haven’t been in there, but if Gerry could have played, he would have played through that. He’s a tough kid that is obviously a big part of what we’re doing and a big part of us getting in here. Hopefully I get good news.

Riley Nash on the game
I thought we started well. The first period was I thought pretty even for both teams. We both had chances, we got one and they got one. Then a little lapse of energy, focus and a couple of costly mistakes there. That’s playoff hockey. You take a couple of minutes off, they score two goals quick and then they got another one a couple of minutes later and you dig a hole like that. It was a really good effort at the end that made it an interesting game in the last five, but down three goals going into the third period is not very good odds. We’ve just got to tidy that up a little bit.

Nash on the message in the room after the second period
It's just one of those things where I don’t know if a lot of these guys have been in the playoffs yet. It’s a young group kind of coming together in the first game. We won’t have many games if it goes that way again, but it’s just a little lapse like that. Five minutes and that costs you. I think you could see it in the third period where we got back skating and got on the forecheck a little better and started creating some turnovers and got some o-zone time. It seemed like in the second period the ice was a lot bigger and had a lot more space for them. We did some good things and some not so good things, so hopefully we can tidy those up on Thursday.

Nash on if the team can build confidence from the third period
It's the playoffs, so I don’t think you get any moral victories this time of year. I think it does show that when you play the right way and we play hard, we might get some power-play opportunities. We might not, who knows, but we’ll get some zone time, we’ll get some chances, we’ll get some looks.


Dating back to the regular season, the Checkers are winless in their last seven home games (0-4-3) … The Checkers fell to 4-5-0 against Lehigh Valley this season … Charlotte out-shot the Phantoms 15-5 in the third period … Carlsson has points in seven straight games (3g, 7a) … Nash (2g, 4a) and Cam Morrison (3g, 2a) have points in four straight … Justin Sourdif returned from injury to play his first game since March 17 and picked up an assist … Checkers scratches included forwards Xavier Cormier, Kai Schwindt, Riley Bezeau, Josh Davies, Mark Senden, Ryan McAllister, Ethan Keppen, Jake Wise and Skyler Brind’Amour, and defenseman Calle Sjalin.