The Rochester Americans scored twice in the second period and used a 40-save effort from goaltender David Leggio to defeat the Oklahoma City Barons 3-2 in a shootout Friday at The Blue Cross Arena. With the win, the Amerks improve to 40-27-3-1 on the season and moved ahead of Oklahoma City and into fifth place in the Western Conference heading into the final five games of the 2012-13 regular season.
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Rochester received goals from veteran forwards Cody McCormick and Nick Tarnasky in regulation while Maxime Legault notched two assists for the Amerks, who have won eight of their last 10 games, including three straight via the shootout. Leggio turned in yet another stellar performance between the pipes through the first 65 minutes, especially in overtime, when he steered aside all seven shots before blanking all four Barons shooters in the skills competition.
Tyler Pitlick and Anton Lander, who was playing in his first game back with Oklahoma City following an NHL stint with the Edmonton Oilers, each scored for the Barons and Yann Danis notched 28 saves in the losing effort.
The Barons opened the scoring late in the first period courtesy of Pitlick’s second goal of the season at the 14:51 mark. Chris VandeVelde moved up the left half-wall from the near corner and made a nifty back-handed pass towards the high slot, where a wide-open Pitlick knocked the puck out of the air and sent a wrister to the upper left corner for a 1-0 lead in favor of Oklahoma City. Martin Marincin also recorded an assist on the goal for the Barons, who took the advantage heading into the first intermission.
The Amerks pulled even early in the second period, however, as the AHL’s top penalty kill bested the league’s top power-play with a short-handed tally from McCormick just 1:13 into the middle frame. Oklahoma City was able to maintain its offensive zone pressure until Garrett Stafford lost an edge and turned the puck over at the blueline. Rochester’s Matt MacKenzie was quick to jump on the loose puck and hit McCormick with an outlet pass up that sprung the veteran forward free up the left wing boards. McCormick, with an open lane to the net, skated into the left circle and snapped a shot short-side over the right shoulder of Danis to make it a 1-1 game. Legault also earned his first of two assists of the night on McCormick’s fourth of the season.
Rochester took its first lead of the game at 13:05 as Tarnasky spotted Legault’s rebound and jammed it home to put Rochester in front 2-1. McCormick bumped a Barons player off the puck with an aggressive forecheck along the left wing boards, allowing Tarnasky, who was trailing the play, to pick it up and drive to the net. Tarnasky then found Legault, who spun to get a shot off that was met by the right leg pad of Danis, but Tarnasky was there to sweep in the rebound at the top of the crease for his 16th of the season.
Oklahoma City answered midway through the third period with Lander taking a pass from Teemu Hartikainen and putting a well-placed shot under the crossbar, knotting the contest at 2-2. Hartikainen led the rush up the right wing boards, and after gaining the Rochester zone, dropped it in the high slot for Lander, who coasted in between the hash marks and beat Leggio high glove-side for the equalizer at 8:18 to force overtime.
After a scoreless extra session, one that saw the Amerks get outshot 7-1, the teams went to the shootout, where for the third straight game Rochester came out victorious. Newcomer Johann Larsson scored the go-ahead goal in the second round and rookie forward Colin Jacobs tacked on another for good measure in the fourth while Leggio stymied all four Oklahoma City shooters to improve to 10-1 this season in shootouts.
The Amerks wrap up one of their most heated rivalries on Saturday, April 13 as Rochester travels to nearby Syracuse to take on the Crunch at the War Memorial at Oncenter. Game time is slated for a 7:30 p.m. start and can be heard live on Sports 1280 WHTK.