On a night the Barons recorded a franchise-low 15 shots, they were still just two seconds away from extending their home winning streak to six.
Pulling its goaltender for an extra attacker, Rockford tied the game in the waning seconds and escaped the Cox Convention Center with a 4-3 American Hockey League shootout win in front of 3,758 fans.
Despite being outshot 38-15, the Barons never trailed until the final shooter of the shootout.
It didn't appear there would be an overtime, or shootout, until Martin St. Pierre made a dazzling diving play to prevent Mark Arcobello from scoring an empty-net, insurance goal with 30 seconds left.
St. Pierre's play became huge when Adam Clendening's slapshot from the point got past OKC goaltender Niko Hovinen with: 02 left in regulation.
“You could see that goal coming,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “They had us hemmed in the entire third period, and we didn't adjust. That's unacceptable ... That's one of the worst games we've played in a long time.”
Arcobello was the only OKC shooter to find the net in the shootout. The IceHogs won it when Brad Mills, their fifth and final skater, beat Hovinen on a backhander.
“Niko played well tonight,” Nelson said. “It was a game if we would have won it we would have stole it. Rockford played a better game than us. I don't know where our guys' heads were tonight. It's not like we're sitting atop the Western Conference. We need every (standings) point.”
Claimed off waivers by Edmonton in late January and assigned to Oklahoma City, Hovinen, a 6-foot-7 Finland product, recorded 34 saves to keep the Barons on top until the final shot.
“Anytime you give up an extra point like that it's really frustrating when you need them,” said defenseman Taylor Fedun, who had a goal and an assist. “Niko played great for us in net. If it wasn't for him we might not have even gotten that (standings) point. But still it is a tough way to finish the game.”
Forward Toni Rajala and Fedun scored two points each for the Barons. Arcobello added a shorthanded goal.
Rajala gave OKC a 1-0 lead late in the first period. Rajala intercepted a pass and turned the Rockford turnover into a goal by firing the puck into a tight window past Hogs goaltender Carter Hutton.
After the IceHogs tied the game early in the second period, Arcobello scored the Barons' fifth shorthanded goal of the season on a breakaway.
Rockford tied it 2-2 late in the second period, but OKC answered with a tick-tack-toe goal from Josh Green to Rajala to Fedun.
“We really executed that three-on-two nicely,” Fedun said. “We got it to Green on top, he got it back down low to Raji and he got it to me on the backdoor. It was a couple of inches off the ice and I whacked at it.”
It was one of the few whacks the Barons had all night.
Oklahoma City was outshot in every period — 14-7 in the first period, 12-6 in the second period, 10-1 in the third period.
“For them to own us like that where we can't even execute simple plays is pretty disappointing,” Nelson said. “But give Rockford credit. They played a strong game and have been playing very well. They never quit. We have to be a lot better.”