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Empire Strikes Back as Barracuda fall 4-1 to Reign on Star Wars night

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The San Jose Barracuda, sporting their Star Wars R2-D2 jerseys, listen to the National Anthem prior to their game against the Ontario Reign at SAP Center Sunday evening. (Twitter.com/sjbarracuda)
The San Jose Barracuda, sporting their Star Wars R2-D2 jerseys, listen to the National Anthem prior to their game against the Ontario Reign at SAP Center Sunday evening. (Twitter.com/sjbarracuda)

Looking to improve their chances for a guaranteed AHL Calder Cup playoff spot in the Pacific Division, the San Jose Barracuda kicked off a six-game homestand with a 4-1 loss to the Ontario Reign (AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings) on Star Wars night at the SAP Center Sunday evening.

The Barracuda, whom have scored just 16 goals in ten games against the Reign this season (2-6-2), had their lone goal scored by forward John McCarthy, who spoiled Reign goaltender Peter Budaj's shutout bid with his 14th goal of the season at 8:53 of the third period, which extended his point streak to four games.

In a first period that saw the Reign out-shoot the Barracuda 11-5, Reign forward Brett Sutter put the Reign ahead 1-0 at 6:55 when he beat Barracuda goaltender Troy Grosenick with a snap shot from the left face-off dot for his fifth goal of the season.

Early in the second period at 1:09, the Reign's lead extended to 2-0 when forward Michael Mersch deflected in linemate Nic Dowd's snap shot from the top of the right slot for his 21st goal of the season, which was set-up by Barracuda defenseman Dylan DeMelo's neutral zone turnover pass for McCarthy.

Dowd made it 3-0 at 13:15 with his 13th goal of the season off a one-timer from on top of the crease set up by a behind-the-net centering feed from Mersch.

After managing just 10 shots on goal through 40-minutes of play, the Barracuda nearly matched that amount in the third period with nine shots on goal but only McCarthy could get the puck past Budaj. McCarthy intercepted Budaj's clear attempt along the right side and fired a centering backhanded shot from behind the goal line near the right corner that deflected in off the leg guard of Sutter, who was positioned right in the slot.

Though the Barracuda had three power play opportunities in the third period, two of which came following McCarthy's goal, the Barracuda were unable to capitalize with the man advantage and surrendered a shorthanded goal to Reign forward Justin Auger, who deked out Grosenick on a breakaway for this 13th goal of the season at 14:58.

NOTES... Shots on goal were 23-19 in favor of the Reign... The Barracuda went 0-for-4 on the power play and 1-for-1 on the penalty kill... Grosenick fell to 11-9-4 with a 3.08 goals-against-average and .897 save percentage... Barracuda forward Barclay Goodrow had a team high five shots on goal... Barracuda forward Micheal Haley dropped the gloves against Reign defenseman Kurtis MacDermid at 5:46 of the second period... The Barracuda wore specialty R2-D2 Star Wars themed jerseys/uniform to benefit the Aubri Brown Club... The Barracuda fell to 14-12-2 at SAP Center and 26-21-9 with 61 points overall... The Barracuda are back in action Wednesday night (March 16) when they rematch the Reign with puck drop scheduled for 7:30 p.m./pt.

THREE STARS
1. Nic Dowd - Reign (1-1-2)
2. Michael Mersch - Reign (1-1-2)
3. Sean Backman - Reign (0-2-2)

LINES
Lerg (C) / McCarthy (A) / Parkes
Morin / Langlois / Goldobin
Haley (A) / Carpenter / Goodrow
Jevpalovs / Timmins / Emanuelsson

DEFENSE
Stollery / DeMelo
Young / Bergman
McNally / Ryan

GOALIES
Grosenick
Rumpel

SCRATCHES
Dell
Doremus
McLaren
Mueller
Pinkston
Gallant (inj)
Torres (inj)