Jack Campbell struggles as Condors dominated 5-1 in Game 1 by the Reign

The Condors now find themselves with their backs against the wall, needing to win the next game at home to avoid being swept out of the playoffs.
Mar 28, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Jack Campbell (36) warms up before
Mar 28, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Jack Campbell (36) warms up before / Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Condors entered their first round playoff matchup with the Reign, with many unsure of what to expect after the latter had won the regular season series 4-3-1. Ontario were on a run of three consecutive victories versus Bakersfield, albeit with each game closely contested and won by the same 4-3 scoreline.

Unfortunately for the Condors and their fans, Wednesday night's Game One at the Toyota Arena was anything but close. While the shots count was relatively even at 35-31 in favour of the home side, the Reign were more clinical with their finishing, resulting in a convincing 5-1 win in the first game of the best-of-three series.

Jack Campbell was giving the starting assignment in goal, which was intriguing and important for a number of reasons. It seemed to indicate coach Colin Chaulk had more faith in him than Olivier Rodrigue, in part backed up by Campbell having a better Goals Against Average and save percentage than his teammate during the 2023-24 campaign.

The 2022 NHL All-Star looked solid during the opening 20 minutes, stopping all 11 shots he faced and ensuring the Condors ended the period tied at 0-0 with the Reign. Unfortunately for everyone concerned with the visitors, it couldn't have gone much differently in the second period.

The Reign blitzed the Condors with four goals without reply during the middle 20 minutes, with two coming on the power play and one even on the penalty kill. Andree Lee, Tyler Madden and Joe Hicketts each scored in a span of 6:14 to make it 3-0, before Akil Thomas added the fourth at the 18:17 mark of the period.

The Condors were stunned and had no way to recover. They did manage to pull on back through Lane Pederson halfway through the third period, but the Reign responded by making it 5-1 through Madden's second of the night just over three minutes later, to complete the scoring on the night.

Campbell endured a nightmare evening, allowing the five goals on 35 shots. Amazingly though it wasn't his worst ever performance in the AHL playoffs, having previously allowed six goals during the 2016 postseason as a member of the Texas Stars.

It's a shame for the 2010 11th overall draft pick, who had played so well in recent months after bouncing back from a nightmare start to his season. It will be interesting to see how Wednesday night's game impacts him, given his self-admitted tendency to get down on himself after tough performances.

That the Reign would manage to produce two goals of their seven power play opportunities is no real surprise, given they were second in the AHL this season at a 21.8 percent efficiency. The Condors' lone goal also came on the power play, with them having five opportunities in total.

Postgame, Chaulk was asked about what went wrong on the night. Speaking to the media, he said: "We missed the wide open net there at the end of the first (and) the second period we didn't stick to our game plan. We unfortunately gave up a couple of penalty power play goals, a short-handed and an even strength goal. You don't generate much offence there for the first seven or eight minutes, so you have a bad period like that and it unfortunately cost us the game."

Despite the loss, Chaulk remains positive about the Condors' chances of bouncing back. He said: "One bad period doesn't win or lose you a series. So we have an opportunity to get back home, regroup and (look at things) tomorrow."

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The Condors must now find a way to win back at Mechanics Bank Arena on Saturday night, in the hope of forcing a deciding game back in Ontario the following evening. With the season on the line, it will be interesting to see if Chaulk turns to Campbell again, or gives Rodrigue a chance between the pipes.

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