ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Danny Taylor made a case Friday for another chance at the NHL.
The Abbotsford Heat netminder made 23 saves to blank the star-powered Oklahoma City Barons in American Hockey League action.
The only NHL action Taylor's ever seen was during the 2007-08 season for the Los Angeles Kings, in which he played just 20 minutes of one game.
"I haven't started an NHL game so I tried to imagine this was the NHL because obviously their first-line power play all should be up in Edmonton this year," said Taylor. "I was really excited to get out there and play against guys like those. I had a lot of fun out there."
The big-three Oiler forwards combined for eight shots.
"He made timely saves,” said the Heat forward Ben Street. “There were momentum swings where we got away from our game a little bit, and they started to press. He just swallows up the puck, and it goes to a faceoff. He was huge for us."
Abbotsford finished 3 for 9 on the power play while their league-best penalty killing unit was successful on all five chances.
"We didn't capitalize on our (power play) opportunities and our penalty kill has to be better," said Oklahoma City head coach Todd Nelson. "It's been our Achilles heel. But right now we're shooting ourselves in the foot."
The Barons took six penalties in the third period alone.
"It's a sign of a team that's young and you have to mature together," said Nelson. "It's a learning experience for everybody. As a team we need to channel that aggression the right way."
Abbotsford has now killed 44-of-45 power plays this year.
"We know they have a lot of one-on-one skill, and we wanted to make sure we weren't caught watching the puck and let those guys make passes through us," said Street. "If they went around us, we were OK with that. We got some good blocks as well, and the goaltender was great again."
Barons goaltender Yann Danis made 32 shots in the losing effort.
The NHL talent on the visiting Barons (5-5-1) was not lost on the 7,046 fans at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre. Both Friday and Saturday's rematch sold out, the first time a Heat game has sold out versus anyone other than the affiliate of the nearby Vancouver Canucks.
The Heat opened the scoring with 70 seconds remaining in the first period on a power play. Street's shot was kicked right to Sylvester at the side of the net and he slid the rebound past Danis for his fourth of the season.
Abbotsford doubled their lead on a second-period power play at 8:34. Street took a cross-ice pass from Sven Baertschi and snapped a shot past Danis that may have deflected off an Oklahoma City stick.
The Barons were stymied by both their own errors and some bad luck. Early in the second frame they had the goaltender well out of position but twice threw the puck through the crease and wide of the net. Then on a power play Nugent-Hopkins one-timed a feed from Hall but the puck was right on Taylor, making for an easy stop for the Abbotsford goaltender.
"He was calm and in control," said Heat head coach Troy Ward. "Obviously there were a couple, well, anytime you're a good goalie you need some puck luck at times, but in general he managed a really good game."
The bad luck culminated with an own-goal by Martin Marincin. From behind his own net the Oklahoma defenceman tried to feed a pass up ice but it deflected off a teammate at 17:09. Walter was credited with the goal, his third of the season.
"I've been on the other side of that, and it deflates you a little bit," said Street. "For us, we didn't want to take our foot off the gas at all, but that was certainly a huge help."
Kolanos rounded out the scoring on a two-man advantage midway through the third. He took a great cross-crease pass from Walter and picked the corner from in close to increase the Abbotsford lead to 4-0.
"We've been shut out the last two games and we've got to find a way to get there," said Nelson. "I just feel we're not shooting the puck enough. We've got to get pucks going to the net. We've got to get greasy.
"When you go through times like this you can't rely on the pretty plays. You have to get those greasy goals and a lucky bounce here and there, who knows what happens."