Oklahoma City, OK - Oklahoma City and Grand Rapids were equals through 40 minutes, but the visitors' quick-strike, third-period attack proved to be too much to handle, as the home side succumbed to a 4-1 score on Sunday evening at the Cox Convention Center.
As Head Coach Todd Nelson alluded to on Saturday, even in the 5-2 win, penalties were an issue; and with the post-season around the corner, it needs to be corrected. In total, the Barons were charged with three opening-period minors, stifling the club's momentum and putting them behind early on a Joakim Andersson man-advantage marker.
On that play, however, it was a questionable call as Colten Teubert's solid own-zone play resulted in a hooking penalty. Mere seconds into the power-play, it was behind goaltender J.P. LeNeveu (who, in total, made 30 saves on 33 shots) as Andersson whacked in his own rebound through the keeper's wickets.
"I don't think my penalty was a penalty; I think it was a bogus call," Teubert said as he addressed the media post-game. "But with that said, I do think we really need to work on our discipline. We can't be taking penalties like that (stick infractions). If it's a hard-nosed penalty, we'll kill that off.
"100 percent," he added, noting the importance of losing valued momentum when you spend nearly half the period in the box. "We don't play our goal-scorers that much on the penalty kill. They're not going to be out there and it's tough to score goals when you're shorthanded all the time, especially when our D are exhausted from killing penalties all game."
Making matters worse, the Barons lost defenceman Taylor Chorney in the opening 20, putting the home side down a man with plenty of on-ice assignments in need of attention.
"It's tough when you only get one power-play or whatever we had all game," No. 33 explained. "We had to kill a lot of penalties with a limited amount of D men, and that takes a toll on you when you play three games in three nights.
"We've got to battle back, get some rest tomorrow and come back to work on Tuesday."
Nelson wasn't particularly pleased with the parade to the penalty box. As the bench boss explained, it was a lethal combination of undisciplined play, ill-timed and sometimes highly questionable calls against.
"I think it's a bit of both," he said. "14 games in a row now, we're playing against the 14 most disciplined teams in the league. It seems like every night now, doesn't matter if we get three power-plays, they get six. But that's the way it goes. We have to talk to our guys and make sure that we take care of our own business. I think there were some things, hit or miss, when we probably should have gone on the power-play.
"But we have to look at ourselves and say, 'Look, enough with the dumb penalties.' We're going to take penalties no matter what, everybody knows that. If you're playing the game hard, you should take penalties through hard work or whatever the case may be. You can handle a guy being overly physical and you can handle a guy trying to save a goal or something like that, but the penalties that drive me nuts are the lazy penalties -- stick infractions (tripping, hooking, etc.) or guys not moving their feet. That's what we can control."
The Barons did get back into the game 6:51 into the second when Antti Tyrvainen scooped up a Bryan Rodney rebound, delivering the Barons' 14th shot behind Thomas McCollum with a heads-up backhand.
While the game was locked in a 1-1 score at the second intermission, Grand Rapids got the last laugh with a strong third period. Goals 4:17 apart by Chris Minard and Francis Pare (on one LeNeveu would like to have back), sealed the outcome. An empty-netter by Chris Conner added salt to the losing team's wound.
"We got away from some of the things that we were doing well before," Nelson said. "Sometimes that creeps in when you play three games in three nights. That's one of the things we tried to guard against. We played some better hockey in the second, but the third didn't go our way. Grand Rapids had more energy than we did.
"We've got to give them credit. They worked hard and are a good hockey team. We still put up over 40 shots on net, but we couldn't hit our marks."
With the loss, the Barons' record drops to 47-18-9 for 91 points on the season. The team is back in action on Tuesday night when the team travels to face the Milwaukee Admirals.