Barons stun Griffins, force Game 7

Game 6

( — With a dramatic flair, the American Hockey League’s Western Conference Finals are going the distance.

The Oklahoma City Barons scored three times in the third period — including twice in the final 2:27 — to avoid elimination and defeat the Grand Rapids Griffins, 4-3, at Van Andel Arena on Tuesday night.

The Barons, who have won three potential elimination games on the road this postseason, will face the Griffins one more time in Game 7 on Wednesday (7 ET, AHL Live), with the winner advancing to face the Syracuse Crunch in the 2013 Calder Cup Finals.

With the home crowd hoping to celebrate its team’s first trip to the AHL Finals, Toni Rajala and Anton Lander scored 82 seconds apart for Oklahoma City to turn a one-goal deficit into a season-saving victory.

Seven power plays were awarded in the opening period and each team capitalized on a 5-on-3 advantage. Mark Arcobello opened the scoring at 13:54, stepping out of the left-wing corner and firing a shot high to the short side over the shoulder of Petr Mrazek. Arcobello’s 11th goal of the playoffs was his first point in four games, ended Mrazek’s shutout streak at 175 minutes and 32 seconds and put a stop to Oklahoma City’s 0-for-19 skid on the power play.

Grand Rapids answered at 18:39 as Nathan Paetsch‘s point shot went wide and caromed off the end boards to Tomas Jurco, who banked a shot from beneath goal line off Yann Danis and in to make it 1-1.

The Griffins grabbed the lead 4:27 into the second period as Mitch Callahan skated into the offensive zone and snapped a shot that fooled Danis and found the back of the net.

Grand Rapids captain Jeff Hoggan scored a big goal with 1:29 left, firing a wrister from the left-wing half boards that deflected off a Barons defender and knuckled past Danis, giving the Griffins a 3-1 lead at the second intermission.

The Barons’ comeback started as Arcobello cut the deficit to 3-2 with 9:41 to go in regulation, beating Mrazek after teammate Jonathan Cheechoo had intercepted a Griffins clearing attempt.

Jurco had a golden opportunity to give Grand Rapids some more breathing room when he was awarded a penalty shot after being taken down on a breakaway with 8:38 to play. But Danis held his ground and stopped Jurco’s backhand bid, keeping the score 3-2.

The lively end boards that helped Grand Rapids score its first goal of the night came back and helped Oklahoma City tie it late. Andrew Hotham‘s long shot went wide of Mrazek but came bounding back in front, where Rajala banged it home with 2:27 left.

Then with 1:05 on the clock, the Griffins got caught in a line change as Randy Jones kept the puck in the zone and drove a shot from the left circle that Lander got a stick in to deflect it past Mrazek.

Danis (10-6) made 33 saves in the win, while Mrazek (10-7) finished with 26 stops in defeat.

NOTES: Lander, making his first appearance of the series, had two assists on the night to go with his game-winning goal… Defensemen Nathan Paetsch and Adam Almquist each had two assists for the Griffins… Grand Rapids is now 2-6 at home all-time with a chance to win a Calder Cup Playoff series… The Western Conference Finals are going to a Game 7 for the third time in four years; Texas defeated Hamilton in 2010, and Houston beat Hamilton in 2011.

Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
3-Grand Rapids Griffins vs. 5-Oklahoma City Barons

Game 1 – Fri., May 24 – GRAND RAPIDS 2, Oklahoma City 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 25 – Oklahoma City 4, GRAND RAPIDS 2
Game 3 – Wed., May 29 – OKLAHOMA CITY 4, Grand Rapids 1
Game 4 – Sat., June 1 – Grand Rapids 4, OKLAHOMA CITY 0
Game 5 – Sun., June 2 – Grand Rapids 3, OKLAHOMA CITY 0
Game 6 – Tue., June 4 – Oklahoma City 4, GRAND RAPIDS 3
Game 7 – Wed., June 5 – Oklahoma City at Grand Rapids, 7:00
   *if necessary… All times Eastern