Following his first good performance in Bakersfield, Jack Campbell reverts back to his losing form as the Condors are defeated 4-2 by the Firebirds.
We appreciate the Oilers are considering all internal options to resolve their goaltending uncertainty, in an attempt to avoid a trade. However, you just can’t bring back a player who is so devoid of confidence and form.
Just to be clear, this is not a case of wanting to kick Campbell while he’s down; he’s a decent man and very popular among teammates. Regardless, you just can’t get around the reality he’s never really produced consistently during his time in Edmonton, and it’s been just as bad in Bakersfield.
There seemed to be a silver lining, with the Condors winning their previous game 2-0. The 2010 11th overall draft pick stopped all 30 shots he faced, and there was hope it was a performance he could build off of.
Instead, the Condors suffered their sixth loss in their last seven games. Not that all of the blame should fall on the heavy shoulders of Campbell.
Firebirds come out firing
As has happened far too many times in recent games, the opponent came out with more energy, focus and motivation. The Firebirds dominated 17-5 in shots on goal during the opening 20 minutes, looking like the team which went all the way to the Calder Cup Finals last season.
It took just under five minutes for the visitors to break through. Shane Wright blazed down the left win and fired his seventh goal of the AHL season past Campbell, for the early 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately for the Condors it wasn’t over, as the Firebirds doubled their advantage inside three minutes. The visitors had a three-on-two break which was finished by Tucker Robertson scoring his first goal of the season, on a shot which Campbell should have done better to stop.
Condors fight back
As much as the Condors are struggling right now, they deserve credit for the way they came back in the second period. They finally scored at the 6:09 mark courtesy of Matvey Petrov’s first professional goal, which he took confidently as he fired home past the far post of the Firebirds goalie.
Petrov’s goal also resulted in thousands of teddy bears being tossed onto the ice by the 8,994 fans in attendance at Mechanics Bank Arena. The bears will be officially counted up on Monday and donated to the United Way of Central Eastern California.
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Now inspired, the Condors tied the game less than two minutes later through Greg McKegg’s second goal of the 2023-24 campaign. There was a scramble in front of the Firebirds net and McKegg just wanted it more, as he made it 2-2.
As a result, the Condors entered the third period with genuine hope, and they did have their chances in the final 20 minutes. However, the Firebirds would eventually re-assert themselves, albeit it took a power play to finally reestablish their lead.
The turning point
The key moment came at the 13:44 mark, after Campell had already made a couple of critical stops. Unfortunately for the Condors he would not deny Kole Lind, who made it 3-2 to the visitors.
With the Condors chasing the tying goal, they took Campbell out and added the extra skater late on. Seth Griffith turned the puck over and Max McCormick seized on the opportunity to score the empty-neter and make the final scoreline of 4-2 with one minute remaining.
The Firebirds in fairness deserved the win, as they were just the better team overall on the night. They outshot the Condors 37-22, who critically went 0-for-4 on the power play.
Campbell did have his moments on the night but it still wasn’t enough, as he stopped 33 of the 36 shots he faced. He’s now 1-4-0 in five games with the Condors, with a .884 save percentage and 3.22 Goals Against Average.
The coach speaks
As usual, Condors coach Colin Chaulk was fair in his assessment of the game. Speaking to the media postgame, he said:
"“I didn’t love our start in front of (around) 10,000 people, a big game for the team and the community, but I thought the positive was we responded in the second period. Matvey Petrov scoring his first pro goal (was) a special moment, I think he’ll remember that. All the bears coming over the glass, I thought that was a nice moment. Then a dirty Condors goal, Greg McKegg in front of the net. I felt like we had momentum and then it came down to a special team battle at the end there. So I didn’t like our start, I liked our response, (but) it’s unfortunate we had to dig ourselves out of a two-goal deficit.”"
Chaulk was also asked what his players can learn from the loss. He said:
"“They have to learn that every game is a war. There’s no easy games in this league, every team is good. Especially when you’re playing against a team that lost in Game Seven of the Calder Cup finals.”"
With the loss, the Condors drop to 5-7-0 on the season and remain in ninth position in the Pacific Division. Next up they will travel to Henderson to play the Silver Knights on Wednesday night, as they attempt to turn their season around.