The Barons couldn’t lose 6 games in a row. Not with this lineup. Not with the team getting healthier. Or could they? This rhetorical question with two not-so rhetorical answers ran rough shod in mind throughout the day. Reconfigured lines and all, this didn’t seem like a game that Oklahoma City would win handily. The Rampage had the momentum, the want-to, the goaltending, but it was Oklahoma City that did the most things right on a chilly Friday night “in the big town”.
It began, as a lot of Oklahoma City Barons games have done recently, with a magical Jordan Eberle goal. When Rampage defender, Michael Caruso turned the puck up the ice to create some offense, Ebs intercepted the pass and wheeled in to score the opening goal of the game. Some will call this play instinctual for Jordan, but it was really more about vision. He had a bead on how that play was developing long before anyone else on the ice even knew what was happening. This, along with a host of other things, is what makes Ebs an NHL All-Star.
The Barons would score two more in the opening period. The first, by Taylor Hall, was the result of a pretty strong dump in by a Barons defender that was resurrected off the boards. Hall would take the puck, go left to right in front of Jacob Markstrom to put the Barons up 2-0. Then came Colten Teubert, who found himself on the strange end of a rush up the ice. As he was caught below the goal line, he’d jump the puck towards the net, miss, but follow his own shot. He’d poke at it as it danced in front of the net, and it would eventually peter in behind Markstrom. The Barons take a commanding 3-0 lead after one period.
The Rampage opened the second period with a goal that temporarily made things interesting. For all the greatness that is wrapped up in a Teubert goal, a puck turnover is equally as terrible. And he’d do just that as Jon Sim intercepted a pass from the defense and scored his first goal of the year.
With a score of 3-1, at the mid way point of the second period, Justin Schultz would further extend the Barons lead. Mark Arcobello and Jordan Eberle were gifted a two-on-one break. They’d cautiously slide down the wings towards the net, when suddenly Arcobello would unleash a quick shot. The shot caromed through Eberle’s space on a rebound, but ended up on the stick of Justin Schultz. The defenseman would score the fourth of the night for OKC, but also the twelfth goal of The Season of Schultz. The Barons would lead the Rampage 4-1 after two periods. They’d also own the shot total a whopping 28 to 17.
The third period got chippy as the distance between losing and winning quickly widened for the Rampage. Fights, cross-checks, trips – a little bit of everything. All would lead to one goal. By the Barons. And the only power play goal of the game in six different chances. Nonetheless, Magnus Paajarvi would score his fourth of the year with assists from Nathan Deck and Colten Teubert (with a rare two point night) on the in-relief San Antonio goaltender, Dov Grumet-Morris.
Oklahoma City closed out round one of the two-for with a resounding 5-1 victory.
Earlier I mentioned all these things that the Barons did right. Honestly, I’ll point out two things that they did right, and we’ll call it a day. First, they scored the opening goal. As Coach Todd Nelson has mentioned several times in post-game scrums, this is a team that likes to get a bit overanxious to start games. But when they find a comfy spot on the ice and between their ears, they play great opening frames. Case in point, tonight’s first 20 minutes was one of the best they’ve rattled off in quite some time. Good defense, careful puck movement, smart on the boards, sticking to the game plan, and eventually scoring a bunch of goals — all lead to “W’s”.
The second thing they did right, was score often. One goal games were killing OKC, and with a highly potent offense, getting out in front by a large margin gives some cushion and comfort to the defensive portion of the Barons program. Tonight they did just that and it paid off.
I’ve not seen this team quite as lose, but laser focused, in quite some time. The skates were moving with purpose. The sticks were parallel to the ice. The fundamentals were displayed with greatness. The simplicity of Todd Nelson coached teams, when working, is about as zen as a game plan can be. Well done coaching staff, your guys were ready.
The two teams (San Antonio and Oklahoma City) face-off again tonight at 7pm. Look for the chippyness level to carryover from that third period. As Colten Teubert said in the Barons post-game interview, “It’s the AHL. We play each other like a million times. By the end of it, we are all like brothers.” And what brother doesn’t like delving out a god melvin after being modestly embarrassed the day before?