After what he called an “embarrassing” loss in Game 1 of the American Hockey League Western Conference Finals, Oklahoma City Barons captain Bryan Helmer spoke to the team about the urgency needed in Friday night's Game 2 against the Toronto Marlies.
Helmer's message hit home, and the Barons bounced back strong, beating Toronto 5-1 to even the best-of-7 series in front of 2,621 at the Cox Center. Toronto started the series Thursday night with a 5-0 victory. A loss on Friday night would have put the Barons in a huge hole with Games 3, 4 and 5 in Toronto.
“We were ready to go,” Magnus Paajarvi said. “It was really bad last night, and they pushed us away in our own rink. That's not acceptable. It's a war out there. We've got to go out there and win the battles to win the war and we did that.”
One of the critical battles in the game plan was the way the Barons worked at the Toronto blueline.
Instead of trying to carry it across, the Barons largely dumped it into the zone in Game 2 and had success beating the Marlies in the battle for the puck.
In the Barons’ previous playoff round, against San Antonio, the Rampage won Game 1 at the Cox Center. Oklahoma City came back to win Game 2, and then it went to San Antonio and won three straight games to advance to the conference championship against Toronto.
“It was a very gritty effort and now, once again, it's a best-of-5,” Barons coach Todd Nelson said. “They all played very well tonight. It was a total team effort.”
The differences between Thursday and Friday were noticeable quickly as the Barons received a couple solid scoring chances in the opening two minutes against Toronto goalie Ben Scrivens.
They also paid off quickly. Philippe Cornet passed from the side of the net to Mark Arcobello just more than four minutes into the game. Arcobello's first shot was turned away, but he fired the rebound high past Scrivens to put the Barons on the board with the power-play goal.