Magnus Paajarvi saw this situation three nights earlier. Once again, the San Antonio Rampage managed to take the lead against the Oklahoma City Barons in the late stages of a high scoring American Hockey League playoff game by scoring two third period goals. After Paajarvi's 15-foot shot from the right side of the ice clinked off the goal post with just a minute remaining in regulation Saturday night, it looked as if OKC would face astronomical odds by falling into an 0-2 hole going on the road.
But Paajarvi earned retribution with 9.2 seconds remaining in regulation, as he tied the game, then assisting Josh Green on the game-winner midway through the 20-minute sudden death overtime. The Barons earned a 5-4 victory that knotted up the best-of-7 series in the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs before 2,962 fans at the Cox Center.
Barons coach Todd Nelson said his heart was still beating at a frenetic pace when Paajarvi had his two opportunities in the final 60 seconds.
“When he rang one off the post, I was thinking ‘Oh, my goodness. Is this how the game's gonna end?'” Nelson said. “But, he went right back with it. He went far side the first time, and then he went shortside. So, I'm just happy he scored.”
Paajarvi acknowledged that the team was on the verge of experiencing Déjà vu after suffering a 6-4 loss to the Rampage on Thursday before the closing moments in regulation.
“It was like all over again,” Paajarvi said. “Many of us thought like that, but you have to believe. Nellie (Nelson) wrote on the board before the game to play 60 minutes, and I think that's what we did.”
Paajarvi later assisted on the game-winning by Green at the 11:40 mark in the sudden overtime period. Green said that the game-tying goal spoke for itself.
“That was a huge goal,” Green said. “If we don't get that, we're going back to San Antonio 0-2. You know, even though we feel like we're a pretty good road team, that's a big hole, for sure.”
Green said that the winning goal was a result of a broken play in the neutral zone that bounced off a San Antonio defenseman.
“Maggie (Paajarvi) jumped on it, and we kind of had a little bit of a 2-on-1 break there. We had a great shot. The puck just happened to squeeze through the goalie's pads to knock it in the crease there.”
The Barons had managed to once again take an early lead, but the Rampage looked determined to steal one more game after scoring on three power-play chances. But, Oklahoma City's saving grace was in the line combination of Paajarvi, Green and Teemu Hartikainen, who all managed to score a goal in the game and end up with a total of five points.
The series shifts to the AT&T Center in San Antonio at 7 p.m. Monday. Oklahoma City will need to win one of the three scheduled games in San Antonio to guarantee a Game 6 in Oklahoma City. That game would be Sunday, May 13, in the Cox Center.
Nelson said that he wouldn't be surprised if San Antonio had to make a return trip north to the state capital.
“I'm very happy with the effort and the win,” Nelson said. “It's going to be a long series. Everybody can see that. Two good teams going at it, and I'm glad we got Game 2.”
Mark Cullen of San Antonio and Mark Arcobello of Oklahoma City each scored a goal for the second consecutive game in the series.