The final score was misleading.
The Barons posted a 7-3 win over the Texas Stars on Wednesday night at the Cox Convention Center to take a commanding lead in their second-round, best-of-7 American Hockey League playoff series.
In their third season, the Barons were 0-9 in the playoffs when trailing after two periods but presented coach Todd Nelson with the ideal birthday present by scoring five third-period goals, including four goals the final six minutes.
The Barons lead the series 3-1. They can clinch a berth in the Western Conference finals for the second consecutive year with a win in Game 5 Thursday night at the Cox Convention Center. Faceoff is 7:05.
“I like the way our guys are playing. They're confident,” said Nelson, who turned 44 on Wednesday. “But let's face it; the fourth win in a seven-game series is always the toughest. It's a cliché, but it's so darn true.”
The third win was much tougher than the score indicated.
The Stars, the top seed in the Western Conference, owned 2-1 and 3-2 leads.
Oklahoma City tied it on Antti Tyrvainen's goal with 13:08 remaining. Tyrvainen shoveled in a backhanded rebound one handed while falling to the ice.
“Ben (Eager) gave me a great rebound,” Tyrvainen said. “It bounced my way. Things happen so quickly. You just react. The net was open. I just wanted to get my stick on it.”
In a game that featured 75 shots and end-to-end action, defenseman Taylor Fedun's 35-foot goal off a rebound was the deciding goal that put the Barons up 4-3 with 5:36 to play.
“(Tyler Pitlick) did a great job to get the shot on net,” Fedun said. “Their goalie went down to make the save. When it came to me I just tried to throw it back on net before he was able to get his bearings. He wasn't able to hug the post and it snuck in the net.”
Fedun's goal opened the floodgates.
Mark Arcobello scored his second goal of the game with 2:00 left.
Tyrvainen scored his second goal, an empty-netter with 1:24 remaining for a commanding three-goal lead. Garrett Stafford added a power-play goal with 15 seconds left.
The Barons, though, played catch-up most of the game other than a short lived 1-0 lead early in the second period.
Oklahoma City fired 46 shots at Texas goalie Cristopher Nilstorp, who entered the game with a 1.90 goals against average in the playoffs.
“We finally started capitalizing on chances,” Nelson said. “We had plenty of chances in the second period. Nilstorp made some great saves. It finally worked out for us. We kept shooting and driving to the net.”
The Barons have been relying on goaltender Yann Danis, an improved defense and solid penalty killing unit. In Game 4, they needed offensive production that included two goals from Tyrvainen, who plays on the fourth line.
“That's what wins games in the playoffs,” Fedun said. “You have to find different ways to win. On a night we weren't able to stifle them as much as we have been it was nice to explode a little bit offensively.”
The Barons had to finish the regular season 13-3-3 just to get in the playoffs, but they've been the AHL's hottest team the past two months.
“We want to finish it. They're still very much in this series, but we don't want to let them hang around,” Arcobello said. “If we can bring the effort like we did tonight, we should be in good shape.”