A former hockey coach in Oklahoma City used to sing “Happy Days are Here Again” to media when his team snapped a losing skid.
Barons coach Todd Nelson probably felt like continuing Doug Sauter's postgame tradition. The Barons tied the game halfway through the third period, and then easily won the shootout Friday night in a 2-1 American Hockey League decision over Lake Erie before 3,232 fans in the Cox Center. Oklahoma City (36-17-5) snapped a four-game winless skid in its first home game since Feb. 22.
The Barons were 1-3-2 during a six-game road trip, although they lost little ground as the Western Conference and West Division leader. But Friday night's win, capped when Magnus Paajarvi, Josh Green and Hunter Tremblay scored in the best-of-5 shootout, assured Oklahoma City of maintaining a six standings points advantage over Toronto for the conference's No. 1 seed for the playoffs. The Barons also remained seven points ahead of Abbotsford, which hosted Peoria late Friday night, for the division lead.
The Barons needed a dose of momentum after their worst stretch of the season, and it appeared they would need to wait another night when Lake Erie (30-25-6) broke a scoreless tie with 15:14 left in the game on Evan Brophey's 16th goal of the season. Lake Erie goaltender Cedric Desjardins was playing just as impressive as Barons stopper David LeNeveu, but Oklahoma City struggled over the final two regulation periods to get many quality chances on net.
But Green tied it 1-1 with 9:19 left. He pumped a rebound off a Paajarvi shot past Desjardins to get the crowd back in the game — and give his Barons teammates a lift.
Patrick Rissmiller, the first shooter for Lake Erie in the shootout, scored on LeNeveu. The Barons' first-two shooters, Ryan Keller and Teemu Hartikainen, failed to beat Desjardins. But fortunes again changed in a hurry as Oklahoma City outscored the Monsters 3-0 the rest of the way.
Lake Erie and the Barons play again at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the Cox Center.