Coming off the worst game in the American Hockey League franchise's four-year history, the Oklahoma City Barons played one their best games of the season Thursday night at the Cox Convention Center.
The Barons notched a 5-3 win over Toronto, outshooting the Marlies 42-22.
“That was the most complete game our team has played all year,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “We did a great job in the offensive zone, working the puck around, finding our best (opportunities). We did a lot of good things tonight.”
In their previous outing, at Charlotte, the Barons allowed a franchise worst nine goals and a franchise worst 47 regulation shots.
“We all felt really bad after that game,” said Oklahoma City team captain Anton Lander, who scored a goal and chipped in two assists on Thursday night. “Tonight, we all stuck together. When someone got hit all five guys were over there to protect them. We put a lot of shots on net. This was a good team win.”
Despite the solid game, the outcome was still undecided when the Marlies (25-14-4) rallied to tie 3-3 midway through the third period. The Barons retook the lead when Jack Combs slammed in a rebound with 6:14 remaining. Lander added an empty-net goal with 1:05 to play in a penalty-filled game.
“It would be nice to find a way to coast in one time and win 5-1,” Nelson said. “But that's not the way our team is this year. We like to have drama and give fans their money's worth.”
The Barons (17-22-6) went up 2-0 on Ryan Hamilton's goal midway through the first period and Tyler Pitlick's goal midway through the second. Lander supplied the key assist on both goals.
The Lander/Hamilton/Pitlick line was dominant, outshooting the Marlies 16-4 when they were on the ice in five-on-five situations.
“This is a huge stretch for us coming up,” Hamilton said. “We're past the midway point (of the season). We need to make a push to get into the playoffs. We definitely weren't happy with the road trip to Charlotte. This is how we need to play.”
Nearly three months remain in the regular season, but the Barons have surrendered the most goals in the AHL. They're in 12th place, six standings points behind the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Oklahoma City has advanced to the Western Conference finals the past two seasons.
“If we play like that the rest of the year, we'll be fine,” Nelson said. “I liked the way we responded at the end of that (9-3 loss at Charlotte). We kept fighting. I think that carried over to tonight. It's good the guys are playing for each other. I think it's really important we have that mentality.”