By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – The Condors have proven they’re adept at comebacks. After all, they’ve taken a 2-1 lead in a best-of-seven playoff series against Las Vegas, thanks to back-to-back victories after trailing by two goals at the end of the first period.
Friday, they’d rather grab a lead, keep it and come away with another win and a commanding 3-1 series lead.
“We can’t afford to go down all the time,” Condors coach Marty Raymond said. “Yeah, we have the team to come back and it doesn’t faze us. But why? Why take that extra effort to come back if we can keep it tight.”
And why put yourself in position to be down by three goals, which might be too much to overcome?
The Condors twice battled back from two-goal deficits in the first period on Wednesday night (2-0 and 4-2) to take a wild 6-5 overtime victory in an atypical playoff contest.
Odd-man rushes were prevalent for both teams with the Condors generating 55 shots and the Wranglers 52.
“Nobody plays like that by design, it just happens,” Raymond said. “We have some guys who play like that at some times, they have Dan Spang, (career AHL defenseman) who is almost a forward. They really took it to us in the first period then we started to adjust in the second period.”
Still, the odd-man rushes were there throughout the game, including overtime.
“I’ve never had so many odd-man rushes against and I’m sure they’ll say the same thing,” said Condors captain Jay Langager. “We have to buckle down in our D-zone coverage.”
And that, Raymond says, starts with less cheating in the offensive zone and better backchecking.
“We’d get caught deep, they’d chip a puck on the boards and have two guys flying then suddenly we’d get beat on the backcheck by one of their guys,” Raymond said. “In playoff hockey you have to be tight backchecking. One pass, one one timer and it’s over. We have to do a better job and be a little tighter in our zone, too.”
That, Langager said, is easily addressed.
“We’ve been caught a couple of times with three guys down low; their D likes to activate and we’re just not picking up guys,” he said. “We just have to sort it out in chalk (talk).”
As for taking an early lead and getting what is sure to be a raucous home crowd behind them, Raymond said the key is to be ready to battle at the drop of the puck.
“For whatever reason, the first period Wednesday was kind of a ho-hum Sunday afternoon type of game (for the Condors),” he said. “It’s not that our guys weren’t excited. Maybe they were a bit nervous for the first home game.
“We can be better. We just have to do the little details that make us successful.”