The Barons’ game with the Texas Stars had an underlying subplot Wednesday night at the Cox Convention Center.
Having already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the Stars showed a crowd of 3,067 why they haven’t lost a game in regulation in more than a month by beating the Barons 2-1.
If the Barons make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, they will play the Stars in a best-of-five first-round series that would begin next week with Games 1 and 2 in Oklahoma City.
“We talked about this,” said 29-year-old veteran Matthew Ford. “Our goal is to make the playoffs, and we knew this could be a potential matchup. We still have to get in, but we wanted to set a tempo tonight. We didn’t do that and they didn’t even have their ‘A’ team.”
With two games left in the regular season, the Barons are the current No. 8 seed, two points in front of Charlotte and Rockford. Oklahoma City still controls its playoff destiny and hosts the Iowa Wild on Friday and Saturday.
“We picked a heck of a time to lay an egg,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “I thought that was one of the worst games we’ve played in a long time. Bachs (goalie Richard Bachman) was one of the few guys that played well or it could have been a lot worse.”
The Barons have a revamped roster after Edmonton reassigned team captain Anton Lander, forward Tyler Pitlick and three other players to Oklahoma City after the NHL regular season ended last weekend.
Even though they sat AHL scoring leader Travis Morin and a couple of their other top players, the Stars continued their late-season dominance.
“They outworked us, which is a tough pill to swallow,” Nelson said. “We’ve been having success outworking teams, but we definitely didn’t work hard enough tonight to deserve a win.”
The Stars have compiled an AHL-best 106 standings points and are 12-0-1 the past month. Their last regulation loss was March 12.
“Tonight was not the message we wanted to send to them,” Bachman said. “We pretty much wasted the first period. For some reason we were on our heels a little bit.”
Texas outshot the Barons 31-25, including 11-2 in the first period. The Stars went up 1-0 less than two minutes left in the game on Toby Peterson’s goal.
The Barons tied it 1-1 on Steve Pinizzotto’s power-play goal midway through the second period, but the Stars answered with a goal from Kevin Henderson with just 32 seconds left in the second period.
Neither team scored in the third period.
“We’re still in good shape but we can’t take anything for granted,” Lander said. “We have to play good these past two games to make we get in.”
The Stars won the season series with the Barons 8-4, including going 3-2-1 in the six games played at the Cox Convention Center.
“I’m sure they wanted to beat us to try and get into our heads a little, but we have to win some games to get a chance to play them in the playoffs,” said defenseman Brad Hunt. “They know they’re already the No. 1 seed. We have to get in.”