It wasn’t quite the turnout BOK Center management had been hoping for, but the 11,235 fans who showed up Saturday night comprised a loud, enthusiastic crowd that witnessed the first NHL preseason game in Tulsa in 40 years.
Unfortunately for most of the crowd, Jacob MacDonald scored at 2:30 of overtime to lift the Florida Panthers to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Dallas Stars.
“I think the first time coming up here and the fact that we were playing head-to-head with Oklahoma playing football probably didn’t help things,” Stars President Brad Alberts said about the turnout. “This is a great building and I think maybe we can start something here and we’ll see about maybe coming back.
“It’s a great city. It’s a great arena, in an area where we can develop fans. With no (major league) professional sports here, they can adopt us as their team.”
Saturday’s game resembled one at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, with all of the Stars jerseys in the stands, the team’s theme music by Pantera playing and even the Stars’ public-address announcer on the microphone.
It was officially listed a neutral-site game, but it was basically a Stars home game.
“We treated it as our game,” Alberts said. “We ran the music, we brought our Ice Girls. We basically ran the entire entertainment, and we wanted it to be that way. We didn’t want it to be a neutral-site game; we wanted to show the fans here kind of what it feels like to be at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.”
Most of those fans were as disappointed as the fans in Dallas when Florida’s Derek MacKenzie scored with 9:23 remaining in regulation to tie the game 3-3 and send it into overtime.
Halfway through the 3-on-3 OT period, Florida’s MacDonald and Maxim Mamin criss-crossed in front of the Dallas net, with MacDonald taking the puck and slipping a backhand deke behind Dallas netminder Colton Point for the game-winner.
For Stars coach Jim Montgomery, it was all part of the process for getting Dallas (2-0-1) ready for the regular season, which begins Oct. 4 at home against Arizona.
“It was real scrambly in the neutral zone but we’re starting to see more and more of what we like,” Montgomery said. “I thought the first two periods were really good for us, especially the second, and we’re staring to be a lot more creative with the puck. So that’s really good. The goals (against), a couple of bad bounces against us, allows them to tie the game and get to overtime.”
PANTHERS 4, STARS 3 (OT)
Florida 0 2 1 1 — 4
Dallas 0 3 0 0 — 3
First Period: None.
Penalties: Ritchie, Dal (tripping), 9:29 Petrovic, Fla (cross checking), 13:09.
Second Period: 1, Florida, Borgstrom 1 (Tippett, Kiselevich), 1:11, PP. 2, Dallas, Gurianov 1 (Dowling, Scarlett), 1:54. 3, Florida, Petrovic 1 (unassisted), 2:43. 4, Dallas, Shore 1 (Honka), 6:00, PP. 5, Dallas, Smith 1 (unassisted), 17:12.
Penalties: Elie, Dal (high-sticking), 0:12. Hunt, Fla (hooking), 4:53. MacDonald, Fla (tripping), 14:12.
Third Period: 6, Florida, MacKenzie 1 (Greco), 9:23.
Penalties: Melchiori, Fla (slashing), 10:04.
Overtime: 7, Florida, MacDonald 2 (Mamin), 2:30.
Shots: Florida 6-8-14-1—29; Dallas 6-8-9-0—23
Power Plays: Florida 1-for-1; Dallas 1-for-3
Saves: Florida, Reimer 20; Dallas, Bow 7, Point 18.
Referees: Brad Watson, Jake Brenk. A: 11,235.