Checkers on the wrong end of longest game in AHL history

Hurricanes' affiliate falls into 3-1 series hole after Lehigh Valley wins in fifth overtime

The Charlotte Checkers and Lehigh Valley Phantoms were knotted at 1-1 through 60 minutes of Game 4 of their second-round AHL Calder Cup Playoffs game Wednesday at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte. Hockey is known for its marathon postseason games that stretch into the night — and sometimes the next day — but no one could have imagined how long it would take to end this one.

The Phantoms’ Alex Krushelnyski scored his second goal of the playoffs 6:48 into the fifth overtime, ending the longest game in AHL history and sending the Checkers, the Carolina Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate, to the brink of elimination with a 2-1 decision that gives Lehigh Valley a 3-1 series lead. Saturday’s Game 5 will also be in Charlotte at 7 p.m., with Games 6 and 7 returning to Lehigh Valley if necessary.

The Phantoms, top affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, got the win on a sequence that started with forward Colin McDonald carrying the puck up the right wing and taking a shot that hit Checkers goalie Alex Nedeljkovic (51 saves) in the mask.

Cole Bardreau collected the rebound and looped around the Checkers’ net and found Krushelnyski inside the left faceoff dot for a one-timer that beat Nedeljkovic and ended the game after 146 minutes and 48 seconds.

While Krushelnyski got the game-winner, it was Phantoms goalie Alex Lyon who stole the show. Lyon made 94 saves — including 54 in the five overtimes — to total the second-most stops in a game in AHL history. The AHL’s only other five-overtime game was between the Philadelphia Phantoms and Albany Rivers Rats — also then the affiliates of the Flyers and Hurricanes, respectively — on April 24, 2008, and saw River Rats goalie Michael Leighton make 98 saves before losing on a goal by Ryan Potulny.

“He made some incredible saves where everybody on the bench had their arms up,” Checkers coach Mike Vellucci said of Lyon after the game. “That’s hockey. A goalie gets hot one night so we’ve just got to find a way to get that tough one on him.”

The Phantoms opened the scoring Wednesday with a first-period goal by Danick Martel. Checkers captain Patrick Brown scored his first goal of the postseason 6:52 into the second period to tie the game, setting up nearly six periods of scoreless hockey before Krushelnyski’s winner.

“We had a lot of chances, and credit to their goalie and their team because they stuck with it,” Brown said after the loss. “We’ve got a challenge in front of us now with having to win three games, but I think we’ve got the right group to do it.”