The key play in the Barons’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Texas Stars in Game 1 of the American Hockey League playoffs was a turnover deep in their own end. The failure to score a power-play goal also was a key factor in Oklahoma City’s setback to the Stars before 1,278 fans on Wednesday night at the Cox Convention Center.
The Stars, the top seed in the AHL playoffs, rallied from a 2-0 deficit midway through the second period to take a 1-0 lead in a best-of-5, first-round Western Conference series. Game 2 is 8 p.m. Saturday at the Cox Center.
“It was a funny game,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “We had chances, but we didn’t bear down, especially in overtime. It’s something as simple as advancing the puck. Our puck management was lacking. They kept the play alive to generate the goal in overtime.”
Texas scored the game-winner when Justin Dowling fought to get the puck to the crease. Mike Hedden, who tied the game with 12:42 left in regulation, stuffed home his second goal of the game, supplying the game-winner just over five minutes into the sudden-death session.
After OKC took a 2-0 lead on Austin Fyten’s dazzling crossover move early in the second period, the Stars scored the game’s only power play goal with 5:28 left in the period. Texas spent the remainder of the second period killing off three penalties.
Instead of the Barons scoring with the man advantage to lead by two goals, Texas goaltender Christopher Nilstorp was a wall to keep Texas within striking range.
“We didn’t capitalize when we had two or three (power plays) in a row when we could have really put them down,” Nelson said. “Give them credit. They did a good job on the PK. We’ll have to make some adjustments to our power play.”
The Barons finished third in the 30-team league by converting 22.1 percent of their power play chances but were 0-of-5 in the playoff opener.
“We played OK, but we have to definitely play better on the power play,” said Barons captain Anton Lander. “We have to get at least one goal when we get so many opportunities.”
Brad Hunt, who set a franchise record for scoring by a defenseman, scored half his 50 points firing cannons just inside the blue line on the power play.
“I thought we did a pretty good job on those power plays, we just didn’t score,” Hunt said. “We had lots of chances. You can’t really say it was a turning point. But at the same time it sort of was a turning point because they got momentum killing off penalties.”
Down 2-0, the Stars scored a power-play goal late in the second period, tied it on Hedden’s goal from a tough angle in the third period and then won it on Hedden’s goal in overtime.
“The key was we found a way to win,” said Stars coach Willie Desjardins. “In the playoffs it doesn’t matter how you win, it’s all about getting the win, it doesn’t really matter. It’s the same thing for them. We know the next game will be a battle.”
Losing Game 1 at home makes Game 2 Saturday night a virtual must win for the Barons, who would face a huge hole if they head to Texas next week needing to win all three games at the Cedar Park Center.
“You take five minutes (analyzing the game) and then you cut it loose,” Nelson said. “Saturday will be a big game for us. But if we go get the one on Saturday it would be back even and it becomes a best-of-3 in Texas.”