Desperately needing a victory, the Condors got some inspiration from a frail 12-year boy Sunday afternoon.
After a pre-game meeting in the locker room with terminally ill Nathan Garcia, the Condors raced out to a 3-0 first-period lead en route to a 4-2 victory at Rabobank Arena.
Garcia visited the Condors just moments before they took to the ice and seven minutes into the game defenseman Francis Meilleur scored his second goal of the season. Meilleur was the first player to greet Garcia in the locker room and the first to start a series of fist bumps.
"It was very emotional when we saw him," Meilleur said. "He looked pretty happy to see us and it makes us happy, too, to see his eyes. We were all in the room thinking about that and how lucky we are.
"I was grateful I had a good shot and I was happy I did it for him. I thought of him right after. We played hard and got rewarded."
Defenseman Tyson Gimblett scored his first goal of the season 16 minutes into the period and Levi Nelson made it 3-zip with a power-play goal a minute later.
Earlier, in the locker room, Nelson handed Garcia one of his sticks, which the youngster clutched with obvious joy.
"He's going though a tough situation; he's battling," Nelson said of Garcia. "To see him out here it's an inspiration.
"Hockey's one thing but there's a lot of people out there who aren't as fortunate as we are. We're lucky to be where we are, being healthy.
"We came out strong and I thought he was a big boost to our team."
Condors coach Matt O'Dette said the quick meeting with Garcia and his family put everything in perspective.
"What's going on in our room with our team seems like a little thing," said O'Dette. "That gave us the jump to get off to a good start. We're fired up. We know we have to play better at home and we came out with that intensity.
"It means a lot, it means a lot. We talked about it before the game.
"There are people in Bakersfield that care for us and some of these people outside of our room are hurting. If we can get a win to maybe brighten someone's day up then we're doing our part. So that was kind of a focus for us tonight."
The victory also brightened the mood in the Condors locker room and made a post-game skate with fans much more enjoyable.
Thanks to the quick start and a solid 60-minute effort by goaltender Scott Greenham, who stopped 44 shots.
The only puck that eluded him came off a deflection by Matt Bergland on a power play 3:32 into the third.
"He was great," O'Dette said of Greenham. "Under siege at times."
The Thunder spent a good deal of time in Bakersfield's zone during the final two periods, thanks in part to power plays, including three times when the Thunder had a two-man advantage.
"Those 5-on-3s are tough to kill off and you're best penalty killer is your goaltender and he was that tonight," O'Dette said. "It was a great performance by him."
For his part, Greenham said seeing that many 5-on-3s certainly was unusual, but credited his teammates for limiting chances.
"They didn't have that many shots on those, which shows how good our team was playing on the PK and how they shut them down," he said. "They got the puck down the ice when they could. Those guys in front of me did a great job tonight and made it easier for me."
And now the Condors (7-14-1-2) have something to build on: their first win in regulation since opening night in San Francisco.
"Hopefully we can get some confidence and start winning some hockey games," Nelson said.