Forget good hockey. Forget good sports. The Oklahoma City Barons are performing high drama. After taking a 2-1 series lead on Monday, game four was bound to be a close one. With Anton Lander out for the remainder of the series (maybe more), it was bound to be not only close, but possibly a timid one for OKC.
I’m glad that the above paragraph proved to be completely false.
The resiliency of the Barons proved too much for the Texas Stars as OKC rebounded from a 3-2 loss to lambast their opponent 7-3 on the wings of a five goal third period.
The first period was typical Stars vs. Barons hockey. Lots of shots, great goaltending, good puck movement, and a 0-0 score through 20 minutes of highly entertaining playoff hockey. Sixteen shots for Oklahoma City was quite remarkable, especially given that Toni Rajala accounted for six of those. The bottom two lines, that now featured Ben Eager on the forth line centered by Tanner House and Antti Tyrvainen on the right, and a third line of Josh Green, Chris VandeVelde, and Tyler Pitlick. I’ve long said that AHL teams are only as strong as their weakest parts, and if you consider those six your weakest parts, I’ll take weak any day. Yann Danis was great. Cristopher Nilstorp was greater. The first period stayed 0-0.
With the mid-section of the game approaching, Oklahoma City faced a daunting task of again trying to beat the stingy Nilstorp. C.J. Stretch would answer the dinner bell first, and put the Barons on top in the first ninety seconds of the second period. Texas would roar back by first netting the tying goal via big bad Brett Ritchie, and a five on three power play goal from Colton Sceviour. In just a ten minute span the Barons went from hopeful to doubtful, and began to take the one goal lead a bit personally, and somewhat panicked. However, Mark Arcobello would net his seventh goal of the postseason to put the Barons neck and neck with the Stars. Things again turned south, as Joe Morrow put the Stars on top of the pile with two minutes remaining in the period. We’d end with a 3-2 score, and some concern from many on the state of the Barons.
Then the third period happened, and the concern turned to jubilation.
It’s rare that a team dominates the way that Oklahoma City dominated in the third period of Wednesdays game. When it occurs it usually begins with your goaltender. Then it moves to your puck moving defenders. Then it’s on the forwards to close the deal. With all those pistons firing for OKC, they’d unleash an offensive juggernaut to the tune of five goals. Antti Tyrvainen twice, Mark Arcobello with another, Taylor Fedun from the point, and Garrett Stafford on the power play – the goals just coming and coming and coming. With it came the thought that perhaps the Barons had figured out Nilstorp, as they figured out Rob Madore in round one. Yet, I’m cautious of such a sweeping statement especially when Yann Danis looks like a giant of a netminder lost in a land of plebes. Don’t let the five shots of Texas fool you, they had some really fine scoring opportunities in the third period. In the end, his complete arc of the game was just so strong that it’s hard to nitpick the fact that he even gave up three goals. He was just so good.
In the end, Oklahoma City would defeat Texas 7-3 after going down 3-2, not scoring in the first, and only going 1 for 5 on the power play. Five in one period is the most by any team in the playoffs this season, and I don’t see that record breaking further down the road in 2013. 46 shots on Nilstorp doesn’t help the Stars case, and in a span of a week the Barons have laid claim to a 3-1 series lead with a chance to finish the series tonight, again in OKC.