ABBOTSFORD, British Columbia, Canada — The Barons offered a triple dose of good news to Oklahoma City hockey fans on Sunday.
First, the Edmonton Oilers returned 126 points worth of manpower to their American Hockey League affiliate — defenseman Oscar Klefbom and forwards Tyler Pitlick, Steve Pinizotto, Will Acton and team captain Anton Lander.
Second, Lander scored the deciding goal as Oklahoma City came back to beat the Abbotsford Heat 5-4 in a shootout at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Center.
And third, the Barons moved into sole possession of the last playoff berth in the Western Conference after fellow contenders Rockford and Charlotte lost.
The Barons (34-28-11) wrapped up their regular-season road schedule Sunday, coming back from a 3-1 deficit against an Abbotsford team that has already wrapped up a playoff berth. The Barons enter the final three home games this week — Wednesday vs. top-seeded Texas and Friday and Saturday vs. last-place Iowa — with a two-standings points lead over Rockford and Charlotte.
Oklahoma City has 79 points. The IceHogs and Checkers have 77 points with two games left, including a head-to-head matchup Saturday in Rockford.
The return of Klefbom, Pitlick, Pinizotto, Acton and Lander accounted for four regulation points and a fighting major Sunday before 5,065 fans. Klefbom, Pinizotto, Acton and Lander each had an assist, and Acton dropped the mitts with Abbotsford’s Blair Jones with 12:51 left in the game and the score 3-3.
Max Reinhart gave the Heat (40-25-9) a 4-3 lead with 11:33 left in the game while on the power play. But Acton and newcomer Darnell Nurse assisted on Curtis Hamilton’s even-strength score about nine minutes later.
The Barons outscored Abbotsford 2-1 in the best-of-5 shootout, with C.J. Stretch and Lander beating goaltender Doug Carr. The Barons’ Richard Bachman allowed a Jones goal, but the next three shooters failed to crack the Oklahoma City netminder.