For the first two periods of the Oklahoma City Barons' second-round opening game of the Calder Cup Playoffs, the Cox Convention Center could have easily resembled the OK Corral. The Barons were tied heading into the third period against the San Antonio Rampage, but they were left shooting blanks in the final 20 minutes as the Rampage managed a 6-4 victory before 2,833 fans.
Barons goaltender Yann Danis had an uncharacteristic game. By the end of the second period, the American Hockey League's Goaltender of the Year had already allowed as many goals as he did in Oklahoma City's four-game series with the Houston Aeros.
“This is obviously a tough one,” said Danis, who faced 29 shots. “Not the way we wanted to start the series. You know, we scored some goals, which was nice. But, I think we kind of forgot our defensive play. I think that's been our identity all year, and I think we drifted a bit away from that tonight.”
Barons' Coach Todd Nelson agreed with Danis' assessment after Oklahoma City blew 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 leads.
“I felt we got a lot looser as the game went on defensively,” Nelson said. “Anytime we give up six goals, it's a very rare thing for a hockey team. I think San Antonio could say the same thing. They don't give up very many goals, and they gave up four goals tonight.”
Game 2 in the best-of-7 series is 7 p.m. Saturday at the Cox Center. The series will then shift to San Antonio for three games, if necessary.
Oklahoma City had a 2-1 lead after the first period behind the impressive play of Mark Arcobello. The second-year Baron had a goal and assisted on Hunter Tremblay's score.
Nelson credited the line combination of Arcobello, Tremblay and Tyler Pitlick (who also picked up an assist on the Tremblay goal) for their offensive chemistry in the opening 20 minutes.
“(Arcobello) has been good for us all year, and I think in the playoffs, his line has played very well,” Nelson said. “He scored the big power-play goal for us, and he's been pretty solid. I think as long as we keep getting efforts from Mark like that, we will continue to have success with that line.”
Nelson said the team play became weaker as the game progressed, and the defensive intensity would need to pick up for Game 2. The Barons were clearly more aggressive through the first two periods of Thursday's contest, but San Antonio still cashed as Oklahoma City sometimes struggled to get back on defense after offensive flurries.
“We came out pretty good offensively in the first, they answered back in the second, and the third period was anyone's game,” Arcobello said. “We just gave them too many chances.”
Nelson said an eight-day layoff contributed to his team being a bit rusty, but he would not use that as an excuse for the Barons' defensive struggles. Oklahoma City was one of the AHL's top defensive teams during the regular season.
“San Antonio had a layoff too,” Nelson said of the Rampage, which beat the Chicago Wolves in five games of a first-round series. “It wasn't quite as long, but the thing is that they're playing good hockey right now.”
Jon Matsumoto and Mark Cullen had a goal and assist each for San Antonio.