CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Oklahoma City Barons played copy cat Friday night. After the Barons gave up three first-period goals to Charlotte on Wednesday in a 6-1 loss, they used the same strategy Friday to defeat the Checkers 8-1 and even their best-of-5 American Hockey League Western Conference quarterfinal series at two games a piece.
The series' deciding game is 6 p.m. Saturday at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Philippe Cornet, Tyler Pitlick and Chris VandeVelde scored in the first period to stake the Barons to a 3-0 lead, and Oklahoma City never looked back. Pitick added a second goal in the third period, and the Barons' other goals came from Anton Lander, Martin Marincin, Josh Green and Teemu Hartikainen.
Despite a 6-0 second-period lead, Oklahoma City never took its foot off the gas. The Barons also sparkled on special teams with three power-play goals while yielding none to the Checkers.
Barons goalie Yann Danis rebounded from a tough outing Wednesday, yielding only one goal Friday while making 24 saves in the lopsided victory.
“We didn't play the game we wanted to Wednesday night, and tonight we knew it was all or nothing,” said Danis. “We got the goals early and I think we definitely gained confidence from that.”
Oklahoma City coach Todd Nelson was asked if he had any inkling this game would be a complete reversal of Wednesday's game.
“I had no idea,” he said. “It's been a weird series with Charlotte this season. We've had tight games but then we've had games where both teams won big.”
The Barons scored in the game's first minute, largely due to a huge forecheck effort by Oklahoma City that prevented Charlotte from clearing the puck out of its own zone after numerous attempts.
Mark Arcobello seized the puck and found Cornet looking at an open net in front of Checkers goalie Rob Madore, and Oklahoma City took a 1-0 advantage.
Ten minutes later, Pitlick fired a shot from the right-wing circle that surprised Madore and the Barons were up 2-0. Their momentum continued to build from there.
“It was do or die, we knew we had to come out flying and we had nothing to lose,” said Pitlick. “We got pucks on net and got the goalie shaken a little bit and it worked out.”
A fourth Barons goal early in the second period chased Madore, and Charlotte coach Jeff Daniels inserted backup goalie Mike Murphy who fared no better.
Nelson was asked what he will say to his team before the winner-take-all game.
“The biggest thing is to stay focused and get ready to play,” he said. “Game 5 is like facing a Game 7, whoever wins advances. It's going to be a lot of fun to be a part of that, and I know the guys are excited to be playing a Game 5.”