Stingy Nihlstorp Helps Texas Stars Beat Oklahoma City Barons, 3-0

Paajarvi vs. Nilstorp
Getting Nihlstorp’d isn’t a whole lotta fun. Just ask a Baron. Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.

There are losses where your team fights hard, and simply is bested by their opponent. No big deal. You win some, you lose some. Then there are losses where a last minute mistake costs your team dearly in the end. Kinda bad, but one play doesn’t win a game (think full game arc). Then there are losses where your team refuses to show up. These are the ones that sting the most. The ones that get under the skin of even the scaliest of epidermis. These are the ones that coaches hate, fans boo, and rivals embrace. For Oklahoma City, they had one of those games Friday night, on home ice, with two important points on the line.

The Texas Stars have become a legit contender for the best team in the Western Conference. Sure they have some work to do offensively and in penalty killing situations, but with Friday’s performance fresh in my mind – I can’t seem to fathom either one of those issues remaining issues much longer. The Stars of Texas defeated the Oklahoma City Barons in the Cox Center with a 3-0 victory. Cristopher Nihlstorp wasn’t tested early, finished strong, and improved the Texas shutout time over 147 minutes.

The Barons rarely play well in defensive battles, because they just aren’t built to be overly burly. Alex Plante was apparently ill, but I can’t imagine his presence would have made things better. Colten Teubert was there, but didn’t really do much. And the rest of the team did their best to move the puck quickly up ice, while protecting their own end, but they simply got pushed around. That plays right into the hands of the Stars whom will lean on their tender and rookie D stud, Jamie Oleksiak.

In the first period, the Barons barely mustered 6 shots. Maybe one (by Taylor Hall) or two of those were legit chances, but the rest were just desperate attempts at getting the puck towards the net. For the Stars, they reeled things in defensively which opened up a ton of space for them to pepper Danis with 15 first period shots. The opening 20 minutes belonged to Texas. 0-0 was how it finished.

Then suddenly Teubert gets nudge up the ice by Cody Eakin who shovels the puck towards net. Texas’ Reily Smith bats the puck out the air on a rebound, with the net off its stakes, but the goal is allowed. The Stars take a 1-0 lead eight minutes into the second. The shots for both teams were low, and the grind was on. The best power play team in the league (OKC) was given three chances off three Texas penalties in the second. The Barons couldn’t muster much off any of them, and eventually would end the game 0 for 5. The second period would end with a 1-0 lead for the visiting team.

In the third period, the Texas Stars would tack on two more goals. Luke Gazdic would strike from the left face-off dot well over the shoulder of Yann Danis to make it 2-0. As the under-one-minute moment came, Yann skated toward the bench for an extra OKC attacker. But quickly Brenden Dillon knuckled in the empty-netter.

The Oklahoma City Barons would be shutout, and the Stars would score thrice en route to a victory for the team from the south.

Random Thoughts

Cristopher Nihlstorp was pretty solid in this one. In the final leg of the game, he was kinda forced to be good as the Barons pressed things quite a bit more. The final ten minutes, in particular, were trying for him, and he answered the dinner bell. The third best SV% in the league, this is the goaltender the Stars needed from the beginning. He’s going to be dangerous in the coming months.

Taylor Hall and Mark Arcobello combined for 9 shots. The rest of the team gave us 12 combined. Not surprising, the lack of solid play beyond the top line (or so) continues to be a problem. For a team like this to disappear quickly is absolutely insane. Then again, the defense on this squad will and always will be it’s downfall. You get into a grinder situation like they did Friday and things get ugly.

Remember the good ‘ole days? When the Barons had moments of 10-12 minutes of fading? Appropriately called the fade, those days seem like a warm memory compared to how often this version of the Barons squad disappears for entire games. That just shouldn’t happen. Like ever.

A chance at redemption comes quickly. These two lace them up again on Saturday evening. No doubt we see a different Barons team, but we likely will see the same Stars team. Meaning that OKC will need to be great to solve Nihlstorp.

The Barons were set to unveil a new goal horn tonight in the arena. Of course, that didn’t happen. So I imagine it sounded like this (click here) after such a bad performance.