Barons avoid late scare, clip Rampage 3-2
CJ Stretch, Mark Arcobello & Martin Marincin each score in the win
|The post-game thoughts of Head Coach Todd Nelson & Taylor Fedun
BARONS EDGE RAMPAGE
With the win, the Barons leap ahead of the Lake Erie Monsters for ninth in the AHL's Western Conference and are only one point back of the eighth and final playoff spot with four games at hand on the Abbotsford Heat.
"It was a good win for our hockey team, especially considering the last couple games where we've broken to pieces in the third period," said Head Coach Todd Nelson. "We tried to make that happen tonight by taking some penalties near the end, but all-in-all, it was a great effort from the guys.
"We played a pretty sound game and the guys worked hard. We were dealing with travel, playing three games in three nights and (San Antonio) hadn't played since Friday. It's a big win for our hockey team."
On the heels of consecutive (heartbreaking) losses to the Chicago Blackhawks' AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, the Barons needed a quick start to set the tone.
With Eric Hunter sliding into the slot after a line change, Stretch got the Barons on the board at 1:52 when he looked off his hard-charging teammate and snapped a quick shot through the paraphernalia of a surprised Dov Grumet-Morris.
Philippe Cornet and Brett Clark picked up the assists. Clark has now recorded 17 points, 16 of them assists, in 18 games as a Baron.
The Rampage led 15-10 in shots after one. Many of Oklahoma City's chances are of the highlight-reel variety, stoning Arcobello, Philippe Cornet and others with acrobatic moves.
Olivier Roy was lights-out at the other end, too, making 33 saves on the 35 shots he faced. With the win, Roy's record improves to 8-9-1-0 (2.83 goals-against average and .901 save percentage) on the season.
"Roy played outstanding," said Nelson. "He made some huge saves, especially down the stretch when we needed him the most."
"He was outstanding," added Taylor Fedun, who was -1 on the night but played big minutes alongside veteran Brett Clark on the club's top defensive pairing. "You can't ask for anything more when you put a guy in the net. He's a very big reason that we were able to walk away with two points."
OKC's best chance to extend the lead came near the period's 10-minute mark when Arcobello set up Jonathan Cheechoo with a glorious open-net chance, but the former Rocket Richard Trophy winner scooped it high over top of the gaping cage.
San Antonio's 25th-best (14.0%) power-play went to work in the second period when Tanner House, Brandon Davidson and Chris VandeVelde were all assessed consecutive minor penalties -- all of which were killed.
In total, the Barons killed seven of eight power-plays against.
"We've really tried to take a step back and re-focus our penalty kill after our early- and mid-season struggles," said Fedun, noting that the Barons came into Sunday's game with a AHL-worst 76 percent success rate on the PK. "We're trying to start fresh and lately it's been doing much better for us, which is what we need."
On a man-advantage of their own at 12:42, the Barons extended their lead to 2-0. With great patience, Toni Rajala sifted a cross-crease pass to Arcobello at the doorstep. The 24-year-old made no mistake, depositing a shot short side on Grumet-Morris.
Rajala and Philippe Cornet each had multi-point nights. And with the goal, Arcobello pulled into a tie with Jordan Eberle in Barons scoring with 51 points in 2012-13.
With 4:45 remaining in the second, the Rampage made it a one-goal game. With Marincin providing a bit of a screen, Eric Selleck rifled a quick shot past Roy.
Roy faced 14 Rampage shots in the second, while the Barons would only test Grumet-Morris with six of their own.
The Rampage only generated a single shot on goal in the first 10 minutes of the third. And at 11:02, the Barons made it a 3-1 game as Marincin launched a missile past Grumet-Morris.
Penalties to Arcobello (delay of game), Colten Teubert (slashing), Clark (interference and unsportsmanlike) and Dane Byers all in the final five minutes gave the Rampage a lengthy power-play -- including multiple 5-on-3's -- to end the game.
"It seemed like we were doing all the right things in the third period to close out a lead, as we've had trouble doing that the last couple nights," said Fedun. "We got into some penalty trouble at the end, but luckily our PK battened down the hatches."
Brendon Nash scored to make it 3-2, making the last minute a nervously unbearable one, but the Barons held on.
The Barons and Rampage meet again at the AT&T Center on Wednesday night. Stay tuned to edmontonoilers.com for complete pre- and post-game coverage.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick