|Oklahoma's Linus Omark and Hamilton's Brendon Nash battle for the puck in the opening game of the AHL's North Division Semi-final. (Photo by Pellerins Photography) |
Despite owning a shot lead for most of the game, the Oklahoma City Barons were outplayed at both ends of the ice, resulting in a 5-2 series-opening loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Only 46 seconds into the contest, Oklahoma's Kevin Montgomery was called for interference. Although Jeff Deslauriers came up with an initial save, Nigel Dawes eventually beat the goalie to give the hometown Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead.
Two minutes after the goal, the Barons benefited from a power-play of their own when Alex Henry took a high-sticking minor. The visitors assumed a 4-3 shot lead on the man-advantage but were unable to get one past Drew MacIntyre.
After Oklahoma couldn't capitalize, Hamilton pounced. Near the midway point of the opening frame, Olivier Fortier caught Deslauriers on the opposite side of the net and flipped the puck into the open net, doubling the home lead.
The Barons maintained the shot lead but found themselves down a third goal seven minutes later. Moments after Deslauriers lost his stick, Ryan Russell promptly secured a 3-0 Bulldogs lead that would last until the buzzer.SECOND PERIOD
After allowing three goals on only six first-period attempts, Deslauriers was pulled in favour of veteran netminder Martin Gerber at the start of the second period.
The goaltending change inspired the visitors: by steadily peppering MacIntyre, the Barons increased their shot lead and, at 7:23, got on the board courtesy of a sneaky wraparound by Ben Ondrus. Ryan O'Marra and Greg Stewart earned the assists.
Shortly after the goal, the Barons enjoyed their second power-play. Oklahoma went 10 shots up on Hamilton in the two minutes but couldn't find a second goal.
The power-play tables promptly turned, and the Bulldogs accomplished what the Barons could not. Only 27 seconds into Richard Petiot's boarding minor, Aaron Palushaj fooled Gerber with a speedy shot that set the score 4-1.
Oklahoma's penalty troubles continued: after being dragged down in the offensive zone, Hamilton's Gabriel Dumont was credited with a penalty shot but was kept off the scoreboard by Gerber's left post.
With less than a minute left on the clock, Oklahoma's Stewart took a boarding major and game misconduct. The Barons killed the remaining time but would carry over four minutes of penalty kill into the final frame.THIRD PERIOD
Oklahoma's penalty kill continued to struggle. 1:29 into the third, Bulldogs blueliner Joe Stejskal did some more damage by slapping the puck through a crowd and past Gerber.
The Barons soon got that one back, however. With help from Linus Omark
and Ondrus, Bryan Helmer surprised MacIntyre with a quick release to get OKC back within three near the seven-minute mark.
Unfortunately for Oilers fans, two late penalties diffused the Barons comeback efforts, and the Bulldogs held on for a 5-2 victory and 1-0 lead in this best-of-seven AHL North Division semi-final.