Toronto, ON - The Oklahoma City Barons battled back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits, but a late goal by Matt Frattin (his second of the night) and an empty-netter by Jerry D'Amigo sealed the visitors' fate in a 5-2 loss Monday evening at the Ricoh Coliseum.
The Barons now trail the AHL's Western Conference Final series 2-1, recording their first road loss of the post-season in the process.
"I thought our team played a very strong game tonight," said Head Coach Todd Nelson. "But we have to make sure we're mentally ready, because we had a couple brain cramps that resulted in goals against. We have to clean that up and get ready for a big Game 4."
Marlies goaltender Ben Scrivens made 25 saves, allowing three goals in which the Barons' line of Chris VandeVelde, Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi all factored in on.
"We played good the whole game," said Paajarvi, who collected a goal and an assist. "We played like we wanted to, we executed well. We need to keep playing like this, because if we do, we're going to have a really good chance to win the next game. They played well, too, but if we stick to our system we should have the advantage."
It still can't silence the sting of giving it up with only 2:02 on the clock.
"It's really hard. It sucks. But (Frattin) came in, made a nice shot and it's hard to make that save."
"It's tough to lose when there's only a couple minutes left in the game," Hartikainen added. "Especially when you've battled hard, coming back three times. But it's a new game on Wednesday.
"We have to win it."
It wasn't the start OKC wanted. With Curtis Hamilton serving a boarding minor, Philippe Dupuis curled to the middle and beat Yann Danis with a seeing-eye, on-the-ice attempt at 12:35 to put the Marlies up 1-0.
Danis, who's now sporting a 2.34 goals-against average and .903 save percentage, stopped 23 Marlies attempts in the loss.
Toronto's Korbinian Holzer and Jay Rosehill served time late in the period, giving the Barons separate chances to equalize, but they couldn't despite rifling 13 first-period shots on Ben Scrivens.
Midway through the second and with the Barons in full control, Hartikainen's stick was slashed in two as he led the visitors' offensive charge. No. 10 expressed his displeasure, and was later punished for it.
Following a neutral zone draw, Hartikainen hauled down a Marlies winger -- a small shove, at best. Still, he was charged with elbowing on the play, giving the dangerous Toronto power-play another chance to make an impact.
With the extra man and space to work with, Jake Gardiner walked to the middle and released a quick shot into the low slot. Ryan Hamilton was in the right spot, redirecting the dish past Danis at 14:57.
But Hartikainen wasn't deterred. Rather than complain and get in the referee's ear, he got back to work in helping the Barons make a game of it. On a power-play of their own late in the period, Bryan Rodney curled into the slot and snapped a shot under the bar to get OKC on the board.
Hartikainen set it all up.
"I got a little adrenaline in my blood and that gave me a quicker step in driving to the net," he said. "I was a little angry and it helped me the rest of the game. I controlled the puck in the corner, got some shots and got an assist."
1:19 later, this time at even-strength, the score was reset at 2-2. Hartikainen dished to Dylan Yeo, who placed a shot low and at Scrivens' knees. The rebound popped out, where Chris VandeVelde pounced and cashed on his backhand to tie it up.
"He's tough to play against," said Nelson, referencing No. 10's visible mean streak that helped get the team back in it. "He's a big, strong guy that controls the puck well. He's a guy that's able to draw penalties because of his strength -- and that has to continue. If we had more guys playing that way, then we'd have had more opportunities to score goals.
"We have to have all 20 guys going. There were a couple guys that could have had a better game tonight."
Frattin got it right back, beating Danis blocker side with a laser at 19:17, giving the Marlies a 3-2 lead heading into the third.
"[Frattin is] a good hockey player," Nelson explained. "He's a guy that we have to try and contain and not give him too many opportunities, because when he gets one, he usually buries it."
The 24-year-old Edmonton product has now scored eight goals and 10 points in the post-season.
The Barons were presented with a late-game power-play chance, extended to a 6-on-4 advantage when Danis was brought to the bench for an extra-attacker. It didn't help, as the club struggled to gain possession en route to an empty-netter by Jerry D'Amigo.
It was only the first shorthanded goal surrendered by the Barons in the post-season and just the second all year.
OKC has now given up 11 goals in three games to open the series -- an unfamiliar scene, considering the club's penchant in controlling a game defensively throughout the regular season.
"We've got to go back, look at the goals and see what happened," said Paajarvi, the game's second star. "We'll look at the video (tomorrow) to see what we're doing wrong."
The Barons and Marlies return to action Wednesday back at the Ricoh Coliseum for Game 4. -- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow @ryandittrick