The Oklahoma City Barons have won only two of 10 games since the Oilers' young stars returned to Edmonton after the NHL lockout ended.
But a 2-1 loss to the Charlotte Checkers on Thursday night at the Cox Convention Center was an example that it's not as if the Barons have been overmatched since Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz and Co. left town.
Oklahoma City goaltender Olivier Roy played one his best games with the Barons, but Charlotte escaped with an American Hockey League win when Bobby Raymond scored the game-winner with 20.7 seconds left in the game.
“We played well enough to win tonight. That's the bottom line,” said Oklahoma City coach Todd Nelson. “But right now it's not good enough.”
Veteran defenseman Brett Clark was whistled for tripping with 1:37 to play. The Barons were close to forcing overtime before Jeremy Welsh's crossing pass set up Raymond for an easy backdoor goal in the waning seconds. Welsh also scored Charlotte's first goal, in the first period.
“It's one of those games that hurt the most when you know you deserve a better ending than that,” said Roy.
What made the loss more frustrating was Antti Tyrvainen had an excellent scoring opportunity with five minutes left but fired a shot into Charlotte goalie Justin Peters' chest.
“The game was there for us to win,” Nelson said. “We had a breakaway opportunity that we didn't bury and they score on a power play at the end. Tonight was one of those games we found a way to lose.”
The difference was special teams. Both Charlotte goals were on the power play. OKC was 0-of-5 with the man advantage.
“Our power play was horrendous,” Nelson said. “That's one thing we have to address. And we gave up two power play goals. Our special teams stunk tonight. We played well when it was five-on-five.”
Barons rookie defenseman Nathan Deck scored his first career AHL goal, late in the first period, to tie the game 1-1. Deck slapped home a shot in the crease off a nifty pass from team captain Josh Green from behind the net.
“It was a special moment to get my first goal, but it was bittersweet losing a game like that,” Deck said. “We were so close but so far. We just have to find ways to score goals and bear down around their net. It is what it is. We have to move on. We have (Friday) to come back at them.”
Oklahoma City and Charlotte play again at 7 p.m. Friday in the Cox Center.
Roy recorded 27 saves, including a breakaway chance late in the first period. Roy also robbed Justin Shugg late in the second period when the Checkers were on the power play.
“I can't fault him for what happened tonight,” Nelson said of Roy. “He made the saves we needed and gave us a chance to win.”
Roy has been in net most of the past three weeks, but starter Yann Danis is returning from Edmonton. The Oilers also picked up Niko Hovinen off waivers from Philadelphia and assigned him to OKC. For the time being, the Barons will carry three goalies.
“I'll just what I can do, what I can control,” Roy said. “When I get a chance to play, I want to make the best of it and give our team a chance to win.”