BRITISH COLUMBIA

Blair Jones scores winner as Abbotsford Heat top Oklahoma City Barons 3-2

04/12/2014 12:48 EDT | Updated 06/11/2014 05:59 EDT
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - The Abbotsford Heat escaped with another win on Friday — and Joni Ortio's left foot made all the difference.

The Heat netminder made 35 saves, including a big toe save with less than five seconds to play, to secure Abbotsford's 3-2 defeat of the Oklahoma City Barons.

Ortio kicked his left leg out to rob Barons' leading scorer Matthew Ford, who shot the puck down low right off the face-off.

"I knew the guy was there, but I didn't see the shot," said Ortio. "Thank God he didn't get it high enough, over my pad. That's the way it goes — sometimes it goes in, sometimes not. Thankfully tonight was the night it didn't go in."

Blair Jones' goal at 7:32 of the third gave the Heat a two-goal lead. The Barons scored late, but the Heat (40-25-7) hung on for their third straight win, and sixth in their last eight. Abbotsford clinched a playoff berth earlier this week.

Brett Olson and Derek Smith scored on the Heat's first two shots of the game, but most of the pressure came from the Barons, who are fighting for their playoff lives.

"For the third game in a row we got outplayed so we're lucky our skilled guys are getting goals when we need them," said Smith. "We really need to tighten up defensively and stop turning pucks over because we're putting a lot of pressure on our D and goalies.

"If we want to continue winning it's going to have to change."

Ford and Taylor Fedun scored for the Barons (33-28-11), who slipped to eighth-place with the loss. Richard Bachman made 16 saves.

Olson opened the scoring just 90 seconds into the game after Corey Locke skated around a defender at the blue-line and fed him the puck down low.

Olson took the pass off his skate and backhanded the puck over a sprawling Bachman for his 16th of the season. Brett Kulak picked up the second assist on the play for his first career AHL point.

"Luckily we got those two goals early to kind of set the tone," said Smith. "But (Bachman) made some big saves when they had some chances, so we were lucky to escape with the win here."

Smith made it 2-0 at 5:34, blasting a slap shot from just across the blue-line that somehow snuck through Bachman's equipment.

"I probably shouldn't have shot it on net," said Smith, with a chuckle. "But I got lucky and sometimes it's good to be lucky."

The Barons pushed to get on the board but were denied. Ortio robbed Juhjar Khaira in close on a rebound attempt. Then the 23-year-old netminder made a pad stop off Darnell Nurse on a backdoor play.

Shots were 12-3 for the visiting Barons at the 14-minute mark of the period, but Ortio kept the Heat ahead.

"Always, when you get a lot of shots, it's a lot easier to stay in the game," said Ortio. "But I think we got away with one there."

The Finnish netminder was recently named to the AHL All-Rookie team.

"Orts has found a rhythm here," said Heat head coach Troy Ward. "There's still a lot of shots … from the outside. A lot of those shots aren't very hard for Orts. And then there's some big saves. It's kind of a combination of both."

The Barons finally solved Ortio at 5:37 of the second period on the power play as Ford deflected C.J. Stretch's wrist shot in midair, for his team-high 24th goal.

Oklahoma City thought they tied it at 11:06, but the goal was immediately waved off because Andrew Miller kicked the puck in.

Moments later, Roman Horak was sent in on a breakaway by Miller, but the former Heat forward was stonewalled by Ortio.

Jones restored the two-goal cushion for Abbotsford, taking a drop pass from Ben Street and ripping a shot blocker side for his 16th of the season.

The Barons got back within one with just over two minutes to go as Fedun's point shot redirected off of a Heat defender's skate past Ortio.

"Sometimes it's your own fault, and sometimes it's because of your opponent," said Ward. "That's a desperate team, so give them credit."

Abbotsford still has a shot at catching Chicago for fourth place, but can finish no worse than sixth. As Smith sees it, the last four games are more about consistency.

"We still have a lot of urgency and need to get back on track," said Smith. "If we want to make a long run in the playoffs we need to tighten up a lot and that's in the back of our minds."

The two teams face off again Sunday afternoon in Abbotsford.

NOTES: Max Reinhart had his seven-game point streak snapped. ... Reigning AHL player of the week Sven Baertschi had his five-game point streak snapped.