The backdrop to the Barons' game Friday night against Abbotsford was how veteran NHL goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov would play while on a conditioning assignment with Oklahoma City before he reports to Edmonton.
Bryzgalov looked rusty in his first game in six months, although it's hard to blame most of the goals in the Barons' 5-4 loss on the 33-year-old Russian goalie. One was a tip-in. A couple of others were backdoor plays.
“I think he is rusty, but that's to be expected,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “We played a pretty strong game. We didn't give up a whole lot (of chances), but they have guys who can capitalize on opportunities.”
The Barons scored three consecutive goals to build a 3-1 lead midway through the second. Led by Ben Street's hat trick, Abbotsford battled back to tie the game.
OKC retook the lead on Ryan Hamilton's first goal of the season late in the second period, but Street scored two goals within 27 seconds with more than 13 minutes remaining to lift the Western Conference's top team to its ninth consecutive win.
“We played pretty well the first half, but you've got to keep it going,” said Barons center Roman Horak. “They have a really good team. In this league if you're up two goals you have to stay tight and play well defensively. We didn't do that.”
The Barons were led by center C.J. Stretch's line. Andrew Miller had two assists. Stretch had a goal. Austin Fyten had an assist. OKC led much of the game before Street's two third-period goals.
“We can take a lot of positives from this game,” Nelson said. “I liked our forecheck. We did a good job getting up ice. From a structural standpoint we played well. ... They have a team that's playing with a lot of swagger right now. They're playing good hockey.”
The Philadelphia Flyers released Bryzgalov from the final seven years of a $51 million deal this past summer. He was a free agent sitting at home until Edmonton signed him last week. He can remain with the Barons up to 14 days.
Unless he feels unusual soreness at the morning skate, Bryzgalov is expected to be in goal again for the rematch with the Heat Saturday night at 7 at the Cox Center.
“It has to be tough to play after sitting out that long, but I thought he was good tonight,” Horak said. “We didn't help him much. I can't imagine how I'd feel after not playing for so long. We've got to help him more.”