GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The potential of a season-ending loss seemed likely for the Oklahoma City Barons after facing a two-goal deficit on the road Tuesday night in Game 6 of the AHL Western Conference Finals.
A stunning turnaround prevented it from happening.
Oklahoma City scored three times in the final period, including twice in the last 2:27, to pull out a dramatic 4-3 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena.
The Barons' come-from-behind victory evened the series at 3-3 and forced a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night in Grand Rapids.
The winner will play the Syracuse Crush in the Calder Cup Finals.
“We had our backs against the wall, but we never quit,” said Oklahoma City's Mark Arcobello, who scored a pair of goals. “We stuck at it, and I'm proud of the guys. We kept shooting the puck, and we gutted it out.
“You never know what's going to happen, and you keep working hard. The attitude was to keep pushing and see what happens.”
Anton Lander scored the game-winner with 1:05 remaining in regulation on a tip-in off a shot from Randy Jones to cap a wild third period.
It was Lander's first game back with the Barons since being sidelined the past three weeks with a knee injury suffered in the second round against Texas.
“Jones took the shot and I just tried to get a stick on it,” Lander said. “This time I was lucky, and it's the small things that made a big difference. We had nothing to lose, and we had to score goals. It was a big win, but we need to play much better.”
The Griffins led 3-1 with less than 11 minutes left when the rally started.
Arcobello flicked a shot in past Grand Rapids goalie Peter Mrazek at 9:41, then Toni Rajala and Lander scored 82 seconds apart to turn a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead.
“We talked about doing things the hard way, and we definitely did that tonight,” Barons coach Todd Nelson said. “The guys really dug deep, and I was happy with the way the guys played in the third period. They didn't quit, and we accomplished our goal. We wanted to force a Game 7 to see what would happen, and now we'll get ready for a big Game 7 tomorrow night.”