GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.
- It seemed unlikely, improbable and downright impossible at times, but the Oklahoma City Barons pulled it off anyway.
Rallying back from a 3-1 deficit in the final 10:19 Tuesday night, the Barons posted a 4-3 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins and have forced a seventh and deciding game in the AHL Western Conference Final.
Mark Arcobello netted a pair, Toni Rajala tied it up late and Anton Lander scored the game-winner with 1:05 to play.
The Barons are now the fourth team in League history to win three road elimination games in a single post-season. No team has ever won four, but the Barons will get an opportunity to in less than 24 hours.
Game 7 goes Wednesday night (5:00p.m. MT puck drop) back at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.
"We talked about doing things the hard way and we definitely did that tonight," Head Coach Todd Nelson said post-game. "We stuck with it and our guys really dug deep. 'Get Greasy' is our (playoff) theme and this was a greasy win."
"We never quit," Arcobello added. "I'm proud of the guys. We came to Grand Rapids with the attitude that we were going to force Game 7. We're happy about tonight, but now we're going to focus on getting the one that really matters."
Now having recorded 12 goals and 19 points in 16 games, Arcobello continues to lead in the AHL in post-season scoring.
MVP goaltender Yann Danis made 33 saves in the win. Peppered with 16 shots and allowing a pair of "soft" goals in the second period, the veteran was exceptional when his team needed him the most.
Danis stopped all nine shots he was tested with in the third period, including a penalty shot by Tomas Jurco shortly after Arcobello scored to make it a one-goal game.
Relieved in his post-game scrum, Danis spoke as if the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders.
"What can you say? It's been the case all year. We've battled through adversity and tonight was no different. Maybe that's what we needed to get things going."
"It was tough. Those were goals I should have had. The weirdest thing is that I was feeling good out there. Sometimes you give up those goals and you're not seeing the puck well, but I felt great. That's what was frustrating. But credit to the guys for bailing me out and scoring three for me in the third."
A penalty-filled first period ended with the teams in a 1-1 tie.
Penalties to Luke Glendening (goaltender interference) and Nathan Paetsch (tripping) gave the Barons an extended 5-on-3 early on. Looking off the cross-crease pass and electing to shoot from close in, Arcobello beamed a short-side shot up and over the goalie's right shoulder, giving the Barons a 1-0 lead and ending Mrazek's shutout streak at 177:19.
On a 5-on-3 of their own moments later, the Griffins got it right back. Paetsch's point shot drifted well wide, but a funny bounce off the stanchion landed directly on the stick of Jurco at the doorstep, who easily deposited the puck into the empty side.
From well out early in the second period, Callahan gunned a wrist shot past Danis to give the home side a 2-1 lead. Looking to the heavens, the goaltender was visibly rattled.
"They haven't been shooting from there all series," Danis said. "(Callahan) brought it in, looked like he was going to go wide, then shot it. I wasn't quite ready for it.
From a similar spot on the ice as Callahan, Jeff Hoggan sailed a shot over Danis' left shoulder to make it a 3-1 game at 18:31. This time the goalie saw it all the way, but couldn't react to multiple (and last second) changes in direction.
"I totally missed it," Danis said, shrugging his shoulders, "but I wanted to forget about it. "The mood in the locker room was still good after the second (period). We knew we'd come back before and there was no reason we couldn't do it again."
First robbing sniper Tomas Tatar with an incredible left pad save and then answering Jurco's penalty shot with the same leg moments later, the 32-year-old made a number of game-saving stops with the Barons' season on the line.
"It gave our bench a lift," Nelson said. "We were looking for some kind of a spark and that certainly sparked us. We started to believe. That was a big point in the game."
"That was absolutely huge," Arcobello, who ignited the comeback with a goal moments earlier, added about the shift in momentum. "That was the turning point right there."
After Rajala scored to tie the game at 17:33, Lander redirected the winner past Mrazek with 65 seconds to play, sealing a 4-3 victory for the visitors.
"It feels good," Lander said. "It's a huge win for us, but we need to play much better -- especially our line, because we didn't play well. We need to step up tomorrow.
"I'm really excited to play in Game 7. It's going to be a great atmosphere tomorrow night. The team that wants it the most is going to win.
"It's going to be a great day."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick