Sparked by former NHL All-Star Jonathan Cheechoo, the Barons' revamped No. 1 forward line the past few games has produced at a high level similar to the three Edmonton stars that were in Oklahoma City during the lockout.
Cheechoo scored two goals, and Philippe Cornet tipped in the game winner to help the Barons rally for a 4-3 American Hockey League win over Grand Rapids on Friday night in front of 3,394 fans at the Cox Convention Center.
The new No. 1 line, which also features Mark Arcobello, the top scorer on the roster, supplied three of Oklahoma City's four goals Friday night after it scored five the previous game.
“Phil Cornet and (Arcobello) have played together before, so they have chemistry,” said Oklahoma City coach Todd Nelson. “And Jonathan is playing very good hockey for us. He's been getting better and better every game that we've played. They have great chemistry.”
Winning back-to-back games for the first time since the “Fab Four” returned to Edmonton a month ago, the Barons battled back from a 3-1 deficit on two Cheechoo second period goals.
“We just have to keep talking, keep letting each other know where we are,” Cheechoo said. “That's one thing when you haven't played with somebody. Up at the NHL level that's all you hear at ice level is guys talking. We're now using that to our advantage.”
The Griffins built a 3-1 lead with two goals in a 31/2-minute span in the second period. Both times the Barons forwards turned the puck over, then failed to clear the puck out of the crease after OKC goaltender Niko Hovinen made the initial save.
Outshooting the Griffins 37-19, the Barons scored the game's final three goals.
Cornet scored the game-winner, tipping in veteran defenseman Theo Peckham's slap shot with 7:50 remaining. Peckham was playing his first game in Oklahoma City. Edmonton sent him to the Barons on a conditioning assignment.
“After practice, me and (assistant) coach Rocky Thompson always practice tips,” Cornet said. “It paid off tonight. It was a good shot by Theo to get it on net. It was a big goal for us, a big win for us.”
A 32-year-old veteran from Moose Factory, Ontario, Cheechoo has nine points in six games since he was signed as a free agent after the NHL lockout.
Cheechoo's first goal Friday night was a sparkling individual play. A forward who led the NHL in goals seven years ago, Cheechoo skated in from the left side, glided through the crease and used a crossover move to score on the right side.
“He was behind me a little so I was using my body to protect the puck,” Cheechoo said. “That's one of the things I need to get back to, things I was doing when I was a little younger. I try to create chances. If I don't put it in rebounds are there for other guys.”
Cheechoo isn't the only veteran addition since the lockout ended. The Barons also signed veteran defensemen Randy Jones and Brett Clark. Jones and Clark have extensive NHL experience.
“This was a big win for us,” Nelson said. “Tonight, we didn't allow many shots against a very good hockey team. We got contributions from everybody. Having three veteran defensemen back there certainly calms things down.”
The Barons and Griffins wrap up the two-game series at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Cox Center.