HOUSTON — After using a three-goal second period to blow by Houston in Game 1, Oklahoma City expected the Aeros to put up more of a fight in Game 2.
For one period at least, Houston did just that, but with two second-period goals, and a comeback crushing short-handed goal in the third, the Barons picked up a 4-1 win over the Aeros on Friday at Toyota Center in front of a crowd of 4,756.
Oklahoma City now has a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five AHL Western Conference first-round playoff series. The Barons will go for the sweep in Game 3 at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Cox Center.
“They came at us pretty hard, and as the first period went along, we were playing strong,” Barons coach Todd Nelson said. “It was good for us to get that goal at the end of the first period. Getting that short-handed goal eased the pressure on us. We have to win three to win the series, and we haven't done that yet.”
Ryan Keller scored twice, and Yann Danis made 19 saves despite seeing his playoff shutout streak come to an end to lead the Barons.
“We are getting contributions from everyone, and that is the way we need to play,” Nelson said. “It's getting spread around, which is nice. We have to continue playing hard and shooting the puck and trying to capitalize on our chances.”
On a 4-on-4, Keller gave the Barons a 1-0 lead at 19:13 in the first period. Keller was one-on-one against Steve Kampfer on the left circle, shot the puck through Kampfer's legs, and it dribbled through Houston goalie Matt Hackett's legs and in.
The goal came after Oklahoma City couldn't capitalize on two consecutive power plays, with a brief 5-on-3 in the middle.
The Barons extended their lead to 2-0 at 4:02 in the second period with Keller's second goal of the game. On a power play, Philippe Cornet shorted a shot from the left side, but Mark Arcobello picked it up behind the net and sent a quick pass to Keller, who nailed it into an empty net from the right crease.
Hackett, who finished with 18 saves, left the game after the play with an injury, skating gingerly to the bench. Mike Brodeur, who made 14 saves, relieved Hackett.
Keller said the Barons tried to dictate the pace of the game from the start.
“Obviously, Game 1 is important, and you want to get that, but by no means are we going to sit back,” Keller said of getting the win. “The momentum of this series is so strange, and it was important for us to come back and try to take the stranglehold of the series.”
Tyler Pitlick scored his second goal of the playoffs at 14:15 in the second, hitting a wrist shot from the right circle into the upper left net over the shoulder of Brodeur to make it 3-0.
The lone negative for the Barons on the night was the end of Danis' shutout streak at 103:48, as Cody Almond scored Houston's first goal of the series at 3:48 of the third period.
Hunter Tremblay, however, ended any hopes of a Houston comeback with a short-handed goal at 13:17 in the third to make it 4-1. Tremblay hesitated on the right circle before wrapping a shot around Brodeur from the left crease.
Despite having a 2-0 lead in the series and defeating Houston nine of ten times this year, both Keller and Nelson said they expected finishing off the Aeros to be a challenge.
“Their backs are against the wall,” Keller said. “The final game in a series to win is the hardest. They are going to be desperate. We need to come out and not look it as we have three chances to do it. We need to finish it off Sunday.”