With the win, OKC improves to a 40-17-4-5 record for 89 points in the AHL's West (Photo by Steven Christy / OKC Barons).
Oklahoma City, OK - On a night when 20-year-old prospect Jack Campbell made his pro debut between the pipes for the Texas Stars, it was the veteran at the other end that shone brightest. Yann Danis, 30, collected 34 saves in all, opening the Oklahoma City Barons' three-in-three weekend with a 3-1 win.
Campbell, the Dallas Stars' highlight pick in 2010, 11th overall, was strong early, stoning the home side with 14 saves through 20 minutes.
But of the Barons' 15 opening-period shots, one got by. With the assists going to Magnus Paajarvi and Colten Teubert, Kevin Montgomery's long-range wrister eluded by the rookie netminder on one he wanted back.
While the home side carried a commanding shot advantage into the second, Texas battled back and peppered Danis with 20 high-quality attempts, one for each minute, but only one got past the cagey vet.
The 20 second-period shots were the most by any opponent the Barons have gone up against this season.
"I felt good. I saw the puck pretty well all night," Danis said, looking back at his 34-save outing. "They got a couple good chances and I was able to make the saves; got lucky on a couple also, which always helps. It wasn't our best period (the second), but we battled through it. That's the way we've been playing all year."
"Our guys feed off it," added Head Coach Todd Nelson. "Every time a goalie makes a big save, it raises the bench. Not to mention they care a lot about him and they want to help him out, so when they see that he's making those saves and is keeping us in it, the guys want to work harder.
"Both our goalies have been like that all year, where they give us a chance to win every night."
Four sensational saves in quick succession, and another that looked to be a shoo-in moments later, boosted the Barons' quick-strike attack. Anton Lander redirected a Colten Teubert point shot past the netminder, putting the Barons up by a pair.
The 20-year-old had just recovered from a nagging hip injury, which has limited him to only four games in an OKC sweater since his assignment on Feb. 25.
"I told him not to get too nervous for his first home game and he started laughing," Nelson said, chuckling. "It was good. It was good to see him get that goal. Any time you go to a new team, or you get sent down or called back up, you want to get a goal to take some of the pressure off. It was a great goal where he went to the net hard, got his stick on it and paid the price to be there. I'm very happy for him. I even told him to get the puck."
"Yeah, I think I have it somewhere over here," Lander replied with a laugh.
"I went hard to the net and it was great shot by Teubert to get it there.
"We wanted to keep my shifts short and I tried to get my legs going, but they didn't really go as fast as I wanted them to. But it's a new game tomorrow and I'll use this experience to help me in that one. I'm looking forward to it."
Following a poor and ill-timed pinch by goal-scorer Montgomery, Texas' Mike Hedden rushed back on a partial 2-on-1 rush, snapping a shot past Danis' blocker side to bring his club back in it at 12:39.
But the Barons weren't to be denied.
Mark Arcobello notched his 14th of the season 26 seconds later when he walked into the slot, danced around protection and ripped a shot past Campbell, restoring his squad's two-goal advantage.
Just as he'd done earlier in the period, Danis ended it the way he started. Penalties to Josh Green and Teubert put the Stars on an extended, 1:09-long 5-on-3 power-play, but the goaltender was having none of it. Throughout, he stopped seven shots, including an on-the-doorstep rebound opportunity for Texas' Dan Spang.
Danis, going post-to-post and showcasing his heady athletic ability, stoned the shooter with a sprawling glove save that brought the Cox Convention Center crowd to its feet.
"I think that was the moment when we started taking over again," Lander explained. "[The Stars were] big, strong and really good skaters. They were hunting us down a couple of times there in the second, but Danis came up with some really big saves and did really good work on the 3-on-5 PK.
"When he makes those saves, it's huge. It's really huge for the team. We all needed to go and thank him for those saves."
Nelson agreed, adding that it wasn't unusual to see some big-time work by his goaltenders. J.P. LeNeveu, in 30 games played in 2011-12, has posted a 16-10-4 record, along with a 2.34 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.
It's the perfect complement to Danis' work, as he's accumulated 23 wins, 11 regulation losses (seven in extra time), a 2.31 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
"When you make the good save, it's always a huge boost," Danis said. "You have to feed off of that. That was the case tonight and it was a good game for me that I can build on.
"The last month and a half, it's been tough without having played a lot of games -- being called up to Edmonton and being hurt. It's good to get back into the groove. I played three games last weekend and I'm going to play two this weekend, so I feel good. The more pucks I face, I feel like I get better."
"There was a bit of rust last weekend (in Danis' game)," Nelson added, but, "he was fantastic and he's been like that all year for us. I thought it was a solid game overall. It maybe wasn't as intense as I expected it to be, but it was a good hockey game and a big win for us."
With the win, the Barons vault to a 40-17-9 record for 89 points, eight ahead of the second place Toronto Marlies in the AHL's Western Conference. The club's four-game homestand and three-in-three weekend continues tomorrow evening when Grand Rapids pays a visit to the Cox Convention Center.
3 Stars, chosen by yours truly:
1. Yann Danis -- 34 saves on 35 shots, including 20 in the second period. 2. Colten Teubert -- 2 assists, E rating, 2 shots on goal. 3. Chris VandeVelde -- 3 shots on goal, E rating, a force all night.