The San Jose Barracuda made winning plays in the third period and escaped Rabobank Arena on Saturday with a late season win.
The Barracuda tallied three third period goals — the first a power play marker to go ahead 2-1, the second to immediately answer a Condors' equalizer, and the third being an empty net goal to ice things away. The final score was 4-2 in front of 6,502 fans.
It was an emotional — and perhaps tiring — weekend for the Condors, who clinched a Western Conference playoff spot Friday night with a 3-2 win at San Diego. The team then had a four-hour bus ride to Bakersfield and didn’t arrive until 2:30 a.m. — the same time the Barracuda rolled into town after their 5-0 home win over Ontario.
Saturday's game saw both teams play well at times and sluggish at others. Even so, two quality opponents took the ice — it was a matchup between the first and second place teams in the AHL’s Pacific Division, albeit the Condors have been just a hair better this season. Bakersfield remains in first with a 39-18-3-2 record (83 points) while San Jose is entrenched in second with a 35-20-3-4 overall mark (77 points).
After Bakersfield outshot the Barracuda 15-6 in the first period, San Jose took a 1-0 lead to open the second. Coming in along the right side, Barracuda forward Marcus Vela threw the puck in front, and it went off a body and into the net. The goal was awarded to Matt Fonteyne.
The Condors finally got one past San Jose goalie Josef Korenar with under a minute remaining in the second. Jakub Stukel kept the puck in the zone and it was flipped in front. Luke Esposito eventually whacked it home — his sixth of the year — to tie the score 1-1.
San Jose opened the third on the right foot, however. After Bakersfield was immediately whistled for a penalty, Barracuda defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald ripped home a one timer off the faceoff to put San Jose ahead 2-1.
Cooper Marody tied the score about four minutes later, when he roofed a shot off a feed from P.C. Labrie.
But San Jose would cash in again 5:06 of the third when, off another faceoff, Maxim Letunov got the puck in the slot and beat Shane Starrett blocker side for the go-ahead goal.
Korenar stopped 27 of 29 shots. Bakersfield was 0 for 6 on the power play. The Condors still lead the season series against San Jose 6-4, and won five straight head-to-head matchups entering Friday's game.
Bakersfield has six games remaining in the 2019 regular season schedule. They’ll look to wrap up a Pacific Division championship and a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference postseason next week with a road trip to Manitoba and San Antonio.