DULUTH - It was a little early in the week for turkey, but it was a foul game to watch as Charlotte handed the Gwinnett Gladiators a 6-3 loss on Tuesday night.
The Gladiators have rarely lost by so lopsided a score as they did in front of 4,249 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. But a dismal first 40 minutes doomed the Gladiators to their second straight loss to the Checkers.
Charlotte scored three goals in the last 31⁄2 minutes of the second period to break the game open.
"We make mistakes that are compatible with losing," Gwinnett head coach Jeff Pyle said. "You can't make those mistakes and win. We had three or four chances with guys in the slot, puck on their stick that won't shoot it. It won't change until they want it to change.
"But if I didn't think we could change, I'd be worried."
The Checkers (9-4-0), now tied for the division lead, get another chance to pick up points against Gwinnett, playing here on Thanksgiving night. But it also mean the Gladiators (7-4-3) get a chance to redeem themselves.
The Checkers spotted Gwinnett a goal, knocking one in their own net, before scoring two straight for a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
Andy Contois was dancing around with the puck deep in the corner and lofted a shot toward Charlotte's net. A Checkers defenseman was standing on the near side and tipped it past goaltender Chris Holt 7:22 into the game.
Then the only two forwards on the Checkers roster without a goal lit the lamp.
Adam Nightingale was crashing the net and beat Dan Turple low at 12:50. Mike Ouellette broke in ahead of the rush and wristed a high shot over the Turple at 14:29.
"I thought we were fine early, up 1-0 and outshooting them 12-1," Pyle said. "And then we made a mistake you can't make, we threw a puck blind from behind the net and pretty much changed the whole momentum of the game. You turn it over and they come down to score to make it 1-1. They hadn't really been doing anything in the first 10 minutes.
"Then the second goal, same thing, we turn the puck over and give them an easy one. They have five shots and they're up 2-1 and they haven't done anything for it. It's kind of our M.O. this year."
Three Charlotte goals in the last 31⁄2 minutes of the second period buried Gwinnett.
The first two came 33 seconds apart and Dusty Jamieson scored the crusher on a two-man power-play advantage with 35 seconds left until intermission.
An improved effort in the final 20 minutes salvaged an otherwise weak performance by the Gladiators.
Gwinnett had converted on just one of its last 29 power-play chances when Brad Schell made it a 5-2 game 2:16 into the third period. Schell, the league's leading scorer, potted his sixth goal of the season on a slap shot from the wall with assists from Jon Awe and Mike Vigilante.
"When we do run (the power play) and set it up, we do get chances, we get good opportunities," Pyle said.
"Now with the pressure, we're not patient enough. Everybody wants to try to do a little more and instead they do a little less."
Charlotte's Bruce Graham potted his second of the game and 11th of the season at 15:11 for a 6-2 lead before Gwinnett's power play converted again.
Matt York collected his first goal of the season at 16:55 to cap the scoring.