Wearing number 22 and in an jersey more Oilers-like than Barons-like, Taylor Hall began his return to hockey after 7 1/2 months of rehabbing major shoulder surgery. His impact was immediate, and that’s not a metaphorical statement. In the first 38 seconds of the game, Hall scores his first goal as an OKC Baron. In a game highlighted by Hall’s return, it was some rough stuff that stole the show. Nonetheless, the Barons would defeat South Division rival, Houston, 4-3 in downtown Oklahoma City.
The first period began with a bang. Taylor Hall deflected in a long distance Colten Teubert shot to give the Barons the lead at the :38 mark of the first period. Less than a minute later, Jordan Eberle wheels down center ice, receives a beautiful pass from Mark Arcobello along the wall, beats an Aeros defender and wrists a shot past goaltender Darcy Kuemper for a 2-0 Barons lead. Outside of that first few minutes of play, the Barons didn’t put the puck on the net much, but neither did the Aeros. The first period ends with the Barons seemingly in full control, 2-0
In the second period, Yann Danis began to look like the Danis we saw a year ago. The one that became the league’s best goaltender. And again, the Barons added to the scoring. This time it was Teemu Hartikainen, who’s developed a knack for scoring behind the goal line extended, hit the skate of Chad Rau and then between the legs of Kuemper. The Barons had a pretty solid lead of 3-0 that they protected for the entire second period.
Few penalties, good goaltending, and smart passing kept the Barons in the lead for nearly 40 minutes of play. But Houston wouldn’t go away.
In the third period, Houston found a level of urgency they hadn’t shown in the first two frames. Mikael Granlund, Johan Larsson, and Charlie Coyle scored in a 7 minute span to suddenly roar back to life. Defenders were caught off their marks, and Danis did his best to bail out his teammates, but it seemed that Houston was prepped for a dandy of a comeback.
A Cam Abney roughing penalty, leading to the third goal by Charlie Coyle, was mind numbingly bad. And it almost cost the Barons a win. But a Justin Schultz pass to Jordan Eberle put the Barons back on top. The pass was perfect, tape to tape, and Eberle lifted it just enough to beat the visiting tender.
Even with a late period check to the head, match penalty assessed Taylor Hall infraction, the Barons were able to hold on to beat the Houston Aeros 4-3. The same two face each other tonight at 7pm.
The big talk this morning is the Taylor Hall check to the head of Jonas Brodin. I’ve posted the video here. It’s hard to tell from the angle what went down. Hall said in post game comments that he believes he hit him shoulder to shoulder. And the camera angle in the Cox Center is so distant, that it’s difficult to tell exactly. The league will look at this, as they do with every match penalty given, and will likely dish out a suspension if indeed they find it to be a head hit. Given the visual evidence, and taking into consideration what the zebras called on the ice, it would appear that a suspension would occur. No word on Brodin’s condition, but he was apparently dinged up just a bit.
Also injured was Mikael Granlund when Colten Teubert hit him along the boards. Some have said it was a knee. Other say it was a hip. Regardless, losing Granlund is huge for the Aeros. He’s the hand turning the crank on the Houston machine. He’s also coming off a rookie of the month award in the AHL.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was scratched this evening. In the three games in three days scenario, Coach Nelson has elected to swap the likes of Nuge, Ebs, and Hall throughout the three day span. Nuge was out last night. Look for Hall to be out tonight. Ebs on Sunday.
Yann Danis looked great across two periods. He had at least three 2nd period saves that were really stellar. But in the third, when the defense got dicey and the Aeros’ went hard, he couldn’t come up with the big saves. That’s not good. If he can unleash a good chunk of play each game, the Barons can likely outscore their opponents. So he doesn’t have to be great, just efficient and timely. Look for Olivier Roy to go tonight in net.
Teigan Zahn was perfectly fine alongside Colten Teubert. Zahn, called up from Stockton to fill in for Brandon Davidson, survived in his first game back in OKC.
Teemu Hartikainen and Mark Arcobell are flying under the radar this season with the top heavy roster they currently play on. But don’t discount the incredible offensive work they have done. Really great stuff worth watching.