Let's get things straight. This is the fourth and final time these teams play. It's October. That's ridiculous. The Barons played San Antonio on Friday, but all their other games have been with Lake Erie. As for the Monsters, they had intervening games with Baby Toronto and Texas. So yeah. These guys don't like each other anymore and at times, things got a bit dirty.
Bryan Lerg set the tone with an ill-advised interference penalty just seconds after the puck drop. the Monsters kept the puck out of danger, only requiring one save of Calvin Pickard, and then Barons forward Antti Tyrvainen felled Olver hard away from the puck. Olver would be fine, but Tyrvainen got the gate; 5+10 for spearing. the Monsters' power play struggled to keep control and an errant pass D to D was picked off by Magnus Pajaarvi, who went up the ice 2 on 1 with Jordan Eberle. Tyson Barrie couldn't prevent the pass and Eberle... kicked the puck into the net. Goal was disallowed after a lengthy review. Nearly 3 minutes in to the 5-minute power play, Lerg made up for his earlier transgressions with a slick shot over the glove of Barons goaltender Yann Danis to give Lake Erie an early 1-0 lead, with power play time to go. Luke Walker decided that wasn't exactly fair and high-sticked a Baron behind the play.
The Oilers line was firing on all cylinders in this game. Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Justin Schultz are incredibly skilled players who gave the Monsters fits all night with the man advantage. Stefan Elliott was excellent on this kill, breaking up by my count at least 4 passes in front of the net that would have given a Baron an easy tap in goal. However, shortly after the second power play of the double-minor begun, Eberle weakly lost the puck into the slot, and RNH one-timed it through a sea of legs to tie the game at 1. (Somehow that was his first AHL goal.)
The Barons kept the pressure on, keeping the puck in the Monsters' zone for entirely longer than Pickard probably would have liked, until finally the Monsters broke out and put a shot on Danis. He couldn't handle the rebound, and somewhere in the resulting scrum the puck was poked into the net by Andrew Agozinno. It would be the only even strength goal of the game. Shortly after the ensuing faceoff, a stick or shoulder or something caught Mitchell Heard in the face and he went down hard. Blood was left on the ice, the trainer took him to the locker room, and he would not return. Both sides traded punches (shots would be 15-13 in favor of OKC in the first) until finally Agozinno was caught hooking Nugent-Hopkins. The Barons absolutely pounded Pickard with shots on that power play, and Eberle scored in breathtaking fashion about a minute in. The period ended tied at 2.
The second picked up right where the first left off as Nugent-Hopkins took his turn to go off for hooking, but the Monsters struggled to get anything going. OKC pushed back, including a bizarre takedown of Elliott behind Pickard that resulted in him getting attention to his ear on the bench. He would return on the next penalty kill, after Lake Erie was caught with the Bordeleau line out against the Oilers and Goers tripped a guy. Less than a minute later, Pajaarvi let one fly from the point that was tipped in front by Teemu Hartikainen, who, by the by, was allowed to just set up camp in front of Pickard on the power play all night long. 3-2. The game flew open and both teams struck back and forth. Lake Erie seemed to score one, but a whistle was blown early (from my limited vantage point about 6 rows off the ice). The Barons came back the other way and Elliott removed Chris Vandevelde from the puck; Vandevelde followed through by pushing Elliott over Pickard. He went to the box for cross checking. Lake Erie struck quickly as Lerg netted his second; a wraparound after Danis had lost sight of the puck in a scrum. With the game tied at 3, OKC shoved back hard, and Pock was whistled for taking down Eberle on a play that he angrily explained to the officials was clean. The Barons power play was allowed to do whatever they wanted by the penalty killers, but that mainly consisted of throwing the puck away and clearing it themselves. Pretty ugly. Stollery would go for holding, which the Monsters also killed, before the period ended tied at 3.
Stop taking penalties.
A minute and a half into the third, a brilliant stretch pass from Barrie found Agozinno with a near-breakaway. Brandon Davidson hauled him down (could have been a penalty shot) and the Monsters pissed away the power play struggling to get the puck over the blue line. I had flashbacks of Quenneville killing kittens. Not a minute after that ended, Agozinno was whistled for cross-checking. It was away from the play and I didn't catch it, but the Barons power play put on a show, as the Oilers line came together again for their second Nugent-Hopkins (Eberle, Schultz) power play goal of the night. The Monsters returned with an energy line shift that saw Bordeleau hitting guys up high, or trying to, which OKC responded to by turning the heat up even more on Pickard. He was up to the task (with a little help from his skaters as Agozinno made a sick two-pad stack save on the goal line), keeping his team in it.
Lake Erie started getting their chances, finally began to sustain some pressure in the offensive zone. They would put a flurry of shots on Yann Danis, who was brilliant in the third period, and then a Baron would break down the wing and Pickard would stand on his head right back. the Monsters pushed hard, scrambled their lines, and emptied the net, but they weren't able to solve the AHL's best goaltender from last season for a fourth time and eventually ran out of clock, falling 4-3. It was a really exciting game overall, shame it fell on a weekday for the sparse home crowd, which saw Lake Erie just not quite up to a war of attrition on the tail end of a road swing.
The forwards were a hot mess after Heard went down, but the top line stayed consistent:
Lerg - Sgarbossa - G. Walker
Barrie - Pock
Gaunce - Goers
Elliott - Stollery
3. Eberle (1G 2A)
2. Schultz (3A)
1. Nugent-Hopkins (2G 1A)
Steve's Best Monsters of the Game
3. Pock (1A, solid in his end)
2. Sgarbossa (2A)
1. Lerg (2G and by far the Monsters' best forward tonight)