Trailing 3-1 with just over 10 minutes to play in the game and staring the end of the season squarely in the face, the Oklahoma City Barons scored three unanswered goals and saved a penalty shot attempt, to stave off elimination and down the Grand Rapids Griffins 4-3 in Game 6 of their Western Conference Finals series.
Anton Lander, playing his first game in nearly three weeks, scored three points, including the game-winning goal with 65 seconds left to play to complete the comeback. Mark Arcobello scored twice in the contest. The win forces Game 7 tomorrow evening, the first in Barons franchise history.
Early on, the outcome of the game looked far less certain.
In the first period, Arcobello did something that the Barons haven't done in nearly three games: Send a puck past Griffins netminder Petr Mrazek. With the Barons on a 5-on-3 power play, Arcobello held the puck deep in the left-wing circle. He appeared as if he was going to pass the puck across the crease, but was able to find an opening just over the right shoulder of the Griffins netminder at 13:54 of the first.
The power-play goal was the Barons second of the series and their first in their last 20 tries. The goal also broke the consecutive minutes shutout streak by Mrazek at 175 minutes 32 seconds
Grand Rapids would answer just under five minutes later with their own 5-on-3 power-play goal. A shot from defenseman Nathan Paetsch sailed over the head of Barons goaltender Yann Danis and caromed off a glass support. The puck rebounded right in front of Griffins forward Tomas Jurco who was able to put it in past a downed Danis.
The second period looked as if it might be the Barons undoing. Mitch Callahan staked the Griffins to a 2-1 lead early in the second period with his fourth goal of the playoffs. That was followed late in the period by Jeff Hogan's fourth of the postseason late in the period.
Early in the third period, the Griffins were able to stymie the Barons at nearly every turn, but the Barons found a spark courtesy of Arcobello's second of the night. The Barons had some sustained pressure in their offensive zone and the puck found its way to Arcobello in the slot where he wristed it past Mrazek.
With 8:38 to play a negative turned into a positive for the Barons in the form of a penalty shot save. A strange carom off the glass from the Barons offensive zone allowed Griffins' forward Tomas Jurco to skate in uncontested on Yann Danis. Jurco was fouled from behind and awarded a penalty shot, which was stopped by Danis. That provided an additional momentum swing for the Barons.
That marked the second penalty shot by a Barons opponent in a playoff series. The first was April 14, 2011 by Hamilton Bulldogs forward Gabriel Dumont against Martin Gerber. That shot was also unsuccessful.
Oklahoma City began to press with under five minutes to play and that tactic was rewarded. Toni Rajala scored his fourth goal of the playoffs at 17:33 of the period when he tucked home the rebound of an Andrew Hotham shot from the slot.
The Barons weren't done yet. With just over a minute left to play, defenseman Randy Jones stepped in from the left point to corral a loose puck. As Jones arrived at the puck, Lander positioned himself in front of Mrazek. Jones' shot was deflected by Lander past Mrazek.
Grand Rapids would pull their netminder in favor of an extra attacker for the duration of the game. Grand Rapids mustered two attempts that were both turned aside by Danis to preserve the win.
The win for the Barons is their third this season on the road when facing elimination. They are the fourth team in Calder Cup history to do just that.
Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals is tomorrow at 6 p.m. (ct). The winner of the game faces the Syracuse Crunch in the Calder Cup Finals. Game 1 of the Finals series will be in Syracuse on Saturday, June 8, with Game 2 on Sunday, June 9.
The Barons game can be heard on the Barons flagship station, 96.1 KXY or seen via AHL Live. Join Barons fans at the official Watch Party at Buffalo Wild Wings on NW Expressway.