In a game that started with a sizzle for the Oklahoma City Barons became a struggle and ultimately ended with one of the most disappointing losses of the season.
The Barons scored two goals in the first 10 minutes of the opening period against Milwaukee on Friday night, and the team with the best record in the American Hockey League looked like it would cruise to another victory.
But the Barons appeared complacent over the next period and half as the Admirals tied the game before the first period ended and rallied to defeat Oklahoma City, 5-3, at the Cox Convention Center.
“We got two quick goals at the start there, and maybe we thought it was going to be easy,” Barons' coach Todd Nelson said.
Linus Omark, playing his first home game for the Barons since Nov. 12 because of an ankle injury, scored 6:15 into the first period and teammate Tyler Pitlick added another barely three minutes later as Oklahoma City jumped to a 2-0 lead.
But Milwaukee scored twice in the final 2:01 of the first period to seize the momentum, the second goal on a fluke play where Admirals' forward Ryan Thang was credited with a goal even after tripping the Barons' Mark Arcobello.
Arcobello flung the puck after he was tripped as he was sliding into the boards. The puck ricocheted off a Barons' defenseman and past goaltender Yann Danis. Thang was credited with the goal because he was the last Admirals player to touch the puck.
“We got a bad break,” Nelson said of the play. “Not too many times that happens. They didn't have possession of the puck, that's why the goal stands.”
The Admirals scored twice in the second period to take command of the game. Teemu Harikainen scored to bring the Barons within a goal 7:08 into the third period, and the Admirals survived a flurry of Barons' shots in the final minutes to preserve the victory.
Oklahoma City outshot Milwaukee 10-3 in the third period.
“In the third period, we started playing with some desperation and all of sudden we are getting some zone time and some scoring opportunities,” Nelson said.
However, the Barons couldn't get the puck past Milwaukee goalie Jeremy Smith in the final 10 minutes while the Admirals' Jani Lajunen scored an empty-net goal with less than 10 seconds remaining to send the 3,018 fans in attendance heading for the exits.
Nelson called the Barons “sloppy” Friday night in their defensive zone coverage and rush coverage.
“That was one of the worst games we've played defensively in a long time,” Nelson said. “If you don't play good team defense, you give up five goals.”
Nelson thinks the visiting Admirals outworked the Barons most of the game.
“One thing we got to realize is where we are in the standings, it doesn't matter who we play, we are not going to have an easy game,” Nelson said. “ People are going to come in here and want to knock us off. They are going to give us their A game. We are not going to catch teams napping.”