On a night Jordan Eberle showed why the Edmonton Oilers signed the 22-year-old right winger to a six-year, $36 million contract extension, the Barons failed to protect a three-goal third-period lead.
It appeared Oklahoma City would cruise to a win behind Eberle's two-goal, three-point night, but an out-of-nowhere Houston barrage helped the Aeros rally for a 4-3 shootout win Saturday night at the Cox Convention Center.
“We need to be (ticked) off and we have a long bus trip (to San Antonio) to think about it,” Eberle said. “It's tough giving up a three-goal lead, especially with 10 minutes left.”
Eberle scored his fifth and sixth goals of the season, including a highlight-reel, pickpocket unassisted goal early in the third period. His second goal, on a power play, gave OKC a seemingly comfortable 3-0 lead with 14:16 to play.
The Aeros, though, scored three goals in a three-minute span to tie the game with 7:32 left. Houston won it by scoring the only two attempts in the shootout.
“Something we need to work on is putting teams away,” said defenseman Justin Schultz, who had two assists to continue his streak of scoring in every game. “I don't think they really had any business being in that game. We played well until halfway through the third.”
The most glaring stat three weeks into the season is the Barons haven't trailed after two periods but are only 5-3-0-1.
“I think the last two years I could count two games that we lost in the third period,” said coach Todd Nelson. “This team obviously is a bit different, so we're going to have to figure out a way. In those situations we have to learn how to deal with the pressure and stick with the game plan.”
It's the second consecutive game Houston erased a 3-0 deficit, although the Barons did win 4-3 Friday night.
“It (stinks) being up 3-0 and lose in a shootout,” said forward Magnus Paajarvi. “We might as well lose 10-0. At least we still got a (standings) point. But the third period is where we should be at our best. We've really got to work on that.”
Eberle's goal 10 seconds into the third period would have been the highlight of the young season if the Barons hadn't squandered the lead. Eberle stole the puck from Aeros defenseman Tyler Cuma and skated in uncontested.
“I could see he was fumbling it a bit,” Eberle said. “I just kind of poked it over his stick and actually had to calm the puck down first. It was rolling on me. I guess that's one of my two moves.”
Eberle and Edmonton's other young stars have a lot more than two moves. The Oilers' foundation players supplied all three goals. In addition to Eberle's two goals, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his third goal of the season early in the second period to give OKC a 1-0 lead.
“Eberle and Nuge had strong games,” Nelson said. “That line played pretty well. We have to get secondary scoring. We can't rely on those guys all the time. It's good they're scoring, but we have to get the total package.”
The top priority moving forward is protecting third-period leads.
“We obviously let it get away,” Nelson said. “Three minutes of the game we had brain cramps. They ended up capitalizing. I was happy with the overall game other than those three or four minutes. We have to learn from that.”