The Condors have been on a roll since Olivier Rodrigue took over as the main netminder. With seven out of a possible eight points heading into Friday night, they were full of confidence and facing a team below them in the Pacific Division standings.
So of course the Condors went on to lose 5-4, albeit at least they picked up a point after taking the game all the way to a shootout. Regardless, it should never have come to this, in a contest they well and truly had in hand.
Consider that through 40 minutes, the Condors were outplaying the Barracuda with a 25-18 shots on goal advantage, but most importantly, a 3-1 lead. Alex Peters and Lane Pederson had both scored on the power play, with an even strength goal coming courtesy of Ty Tullio.
From a historical perspective, the Condors were also 14-3-0 at home in their last 17 games versus the Barracuda. It was all set up for the 5,556 fans in attendance, to leave Mechanics Bank Arena in a good mood.
A disastrous third
Then it all starting to fall apart in the third period. Rodrigue, who entered the night leading all qualifying AHL goaltenders in save percentage on the season, allowed two goals in the first 5:03 as the visitors returned from the abyss to tie the game at 3-3.
Normal service seemed to be restored, when Raphael Lavoie scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season with just over 10 minutes remaining. It also represented the Condors' third power play goal of the game.
However, the Condors just couldn't finish off the game and were made to pay with less than two minutes remaining. Cole Cassels scored with the extra skater, to take the game into overtime.
With no more goals in the extra period, the game went to the dreaded shootout. The Condors missed two of their three, while Tristen Robins scored what turned out to be the crucial shootout goal for the 5-4 win.
The Condors did well to hold the Barracuda scoreless on four power play opportunities, but ultimately Rodrigue finished 24-for-28 on the visitors' shot attempts at goal. Peters ended up being awarded the game's Third Star.
Closing in on history
Of special note, Seth Griffith had two assists on the night. As a result, he is now just three points shy of tying the all-time Condors AHL record for overall points.
Postgame, Condors coach Colin Chaulk was well aware the team needed to be better at closing games out. Speaking to the media, he said:
"We were in control of that game, but San Jose is a dangerous team. They're offensive and they have a lot of weapons. We need to make sure we lock leads down and I think we've been really good (at) doing that this year, but this one was one that got away from us. ... We need to learn to lock those games down and we're a minute and a half left from having a different conversation, but that's why you play till the final horn."
With the shootout loss, the Condors fall to 11-10-3 but remain in eighth place in the Pacific Division. They will get an immediate chance at revenge versus the Barracuda, with the rematch on Saturday night in San Jose.