CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For the first time since Dec. 29, the Chicago Wolves’ power-play unit came through with multiple goals and, for the first time this season, the Wolves stand alone atop the AHL’s Midwest Division.
All-Star Darren Haydar delivered two power-play goals as the Wolves leapfrogged Charlotte for first place with a 3-1 triumph Saturday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Forward Mike Duco added a career-high 3 assists for the Wolves (33-22-2-3) while deadline acquisition Andrew Gordon’s first goal for the team doubled as the game-winner. Eddie Lack (17-15-3) stopped 24 shots to earn the win.
Haydar, who has scored goals in each of the last three games, leaped over Bob Nardella for fourth place on the Wolves’ all-time scoring chart. Haydar owns 103 goals and 196 assists in 256 career games with the team.
The Wolves opened the scoring with their first power-play goal in 21 chances this season against the Checkers. Duco slid a perfect cross-ice pass to the left circle for Haydar, who one-timed a blast past Charlotte goaltender Justin Peters (6-8-1). Mark Mancari also earned an assist on the play.
Charlotte (31-20-3-5) evened the score with a short-handed goal at 11:50 of the second period. The Wolves missed a check at the offensive blue line, which set the stage for Checkers center Zac Dalpe to swoop in on a breakaway. He beat Lack glove-side with a top-shelf blast.
Gordon’s go-ahead goal came at the 4:58 mark of the third. Duco led a 3-on-2 advantage into the offensive zone and slid the puck to Antoine Roussel coming down the left side. Roussel spied Gordon flying down the middle and threaded a pass that Gordon redirected off Peters’ glove and across the line.
The Wolves earned an insurance goal at 9:33 when Haydar unleashed a slapshot from the top of the right circle that trickled past Peters (24 saves). Six-foot-5, 215-pound Byron Bitz aided Haydar by planting himself in front of the crease. Duco and Bitz picked up assists.
The Wolves and Checkers meet for the final time this season at 2 p.m. Sunday. The Wolves’ next appearance at Allstate Arena is 7 p.m. Wednesday against Peoria in an Illinois Lottery Cup contest.
— Chicago Wolves