The Oklahoma City Barons aren't playing their best hockey.
But the AHL team is winning and winning plenty.
Ask coach Todd Nelson the key to his team's success and he'll explain it in a word.
“We're finding out that the guys have a swagger about them,” Nelson said following his team's 3-1 win over Toronto on Tuesday afternoon.
“I call swagger a situation where it doesn't matter what the score is, you know you can win that game. That's what they're finding out. And when you play with a swagger, it's not cockiness, it's that inner-confidence that you know that you can come back on a team or you can hold that 1-0 lead or 2-0 lead.”
Before 4,411 fans, many of them shrieking children in attendance during the annual “Field Trip” matinee, the Barons (9-2-0-1) displayed their growing penchant for pulling out wins in comeback fashion.
After falling behind 1-0 in the second period, the Barons quickly snapped out of an early funk that was marred by sloppy play. Following a goal on a slap shot from the point by Marlies defenseman Simon Gysbers at 14:32 of the second period, the Barons answered with the equalizer 4 minutes, 13 seconds later. Teemu Hartikainen punched it in from in front of the net after getting assisted by Linus Omark and Ryan Lowery. The game-tying goal came right at the end of a power play, as a Marlies player was returning from the penalty box.
“Whenever you're down by a goal, you have to respond,” said goalie Yann Dannis. “Because the next thing you know they score another one and you've built yourself a hole. So it definitely woke us up.”
Triston Grant provided the game-winner at 11:57. He did so by refusing to give up on a play. Marlies goalie Mark Owuya attempted to trap the puck following a shot by Alex Plante that ricocheted off the board. But Grant poked and poked and found the puck with inches to spare between the post and Owuya's glove.
“He didn't really have a handle on it,” Grant said. “I kind of took one swipe of it and it came loose right away, and I just kind of banged it in…It was one of those bounces that can go either way. We were fortunate it was for us tonight.”
The Marlies had a chance to tie it up in the final two minutes after the Barons got called for a penalty for too many men on the ice. Toronto pulled its goalie for a 6-on-4 advantage, but Hunter Tremblay put the nail in the coffin with a short-handed goal on an empty net with 1:16 left to play.
It was the third straight game the Barons have won after facing an early deficit. Oklahoma City overcame 2-0 deficits in the previous two games to notch wins at Abbotsford.
“It wasn't pretty, but we got it done,” said Bryan Helmer. “It seems like we just find ways to win, and good teams do that so it's a good feeling.”