The Barons finally won a shootout.
In an American Hockey League game the Barons felt they should have won in regulation, Oklahoma City ended a season-long shootout slump by posting a 5-4 win over the Milwaukee Admirals on Sunday afternoon at the Cox Convention Center.
In five previous shootouts, all losses, the Barons were a league-worst 2-of-22 on shootout attempts. Opponents were 11-of-23.
In Sunday's win, OKC scored three shootout goals. Barons goaltender Richard Bachman stopped four of Milwaukee's six shots.
“We were due to win one,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “Maybe it was a blessing in disguise. Tonight, we got some bounces to go our way like our fourth goal. But we've had plenty of those go against us. You hope all these things even out throughout the course of a season.”
Ryan Hamilton and Jack Combs gave the Barons a two-goal advantage in the shootout, but Milwaukee's second and fifth shooters tied it.
When the shootout went in “sudden death,” C.J. Stretch scored for OKC. Bachman secured the win when Milikka Salomaki's shot went wide.
Milwaukee (18-12-8) outshot the Barons 45-25. But the Barons (16-20-6) were in position to win in regulation, leading 4-2 with five minutes left. The Admirals scored twice late, including the tying goal on Simon Moser's shot off a draw with 2.6 seconds remaining.
“We certainly make games exciting,” Stretch said. “Bachs stood on his head for us. We just need to score some goals for him and not take bad penalties.”
Obtained in a trade Friday with the Florida Panthers/San Antonio Rampage, Combs scored midway through the second period when he stuffed home a rebound. Matthew Ford used some fancy moves to fire a laser to give OKC a 3-1 lead with 13:05 remaining.
After Milwaukee scored with 7:30 left, the Barons went back up 4-2 on a fluke goal. Taylor Fedun was credited his sixth goal when his slap shot on a power play was blocked to center ice but deflected into the net off Milwaukee defender Mark Van Guilder's leg.
Fedun's goal was needed since Milwaukee scored twice the final five minutes.
“I've only been here two games, but I like what I've seen,” said Combs, who had 82 points during the 2010-11 season for the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League. “This team competes hard, and they have great goaltending. I think this team has the recipe to make a successful playoff run.”
Nelson said a seven-game homestand might be pivotal if the Barons are to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. As it turned out, seven home games over a 16-day span didn't significantly alter the Barons' playoff prognosis.
Going 4-3 on the homestand, the Barons are within striking range. But they've dug themselves a hole with three months left in the regular season. Oklahoma City is in 11th. The top eight make the playoffs.
The Barons are four points behind Rockford and Hamilton, currently tied for the final two playoff spots. One variable that makes a playoff run more challenging is OKC has only 34 games remaining, less than any team in the league.
“We've had almost 50 players come through here, including eight goalies,” Nelson said. “This looks like it will pretty much be our team the rest of the year.
“This is a different group than we had on that Midwest swing in December. I like the makeup of this team. Now we need to go on the road and win some games.”