HAMILTON, Ont. -- The Oklahoma City Barons entered Sunday's game in the midst of a battle for playoff positioning.
Their urgent need of points, against a team long since eliminated from post-season contention, showed in the Barons' performance.
Yann Danis made 24 saves for his first shutout of the season, as the Barons defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 4-0 in the American Hockey League on Sunday.
The Bulldogs' head coach Sylvain Lefebvre acknowledged that the Barons appeared the hungrier of the two sides.
"There were bad bounces that led to goals," said Lefebvre. "We gave up a lot of shots, but not overly dangerous chances against. But we didn't generate anything, and we spent too much time in our own zone.
"They were desperate for points and they played well, and we ran out of gas."
Philippe Cornet, Mark Arcobello, Jonathan Cheechoo and Toni Rajala scored for the Barons (37-24-11).
With the win, Oklahoma City claimed sole possession of seventh in the AHL's Western Conference, with four games left to play.
Jacob Gervais-Chouinard stopped 36 shots in a losing effort, as the Bulldogs (28-39-6) suffered their fourth-consecutive loss.
Much as they had in their last appearance at Copps Coliseum on Friday, the Bulldogs endured a terrible start to Sunday's game.
Cornet opened the scoring on the Barons' third shot, at 3:41 of the opening period. The puck bounced to Cheechoo at the right faceoff dot, and the winger fired an off-balance shot that handcuffed Gervais-Chouinard.
The rebound fluttered over the goaltender's head, and Cornet was on hand to sweep it into the empty net.
Things went from bad to worse for Hamilton, when Oklahoma City doubled its advantage just 20 seconds later.
Gervais-Chouinard struggled once again to control a routine rebound, and Arcobello swooped in to deposit the Barons' second goal from close range at 4:11 of the first.
It was a reassuring start for Danis and Oklahoma City, even while much work remained to be done.
"It helps, whenever you know that you have the goal support," said the goaltender. "It makes your job easier. But, having said that, it hasn't been a sure thing for us when we score first.
"But I've got to give credit to the guys tonight. They played a full 60 minutes and it was good to see."
Oklahoma City outplayed Hamilton by a wide margin in the opening period, out-shooting the Bulldogs 18-7 and keeping possession in their zone for long stretches.
That trend continued into the second, as the Barons forced a flurry of saves from Gervais-Chouinard while enjoying an early power play.
The young goaltender had settled in well after a shaky start, but could do little to stop Cheechoo from extending the Barons' lead to three at 9:26 of the second period.
The winger lost his defender and streaked to the front of the Hamilton net, and Rajala found him with a cross-ice pass from the left corner.
Cheechoo kicked the puck to his stick as Gervais-Chouinard overplayed the pass, and calmly tucked it into the open net for his second point of the game.
The Bulldogs bemoaned their luck after falling behind by three goals for the third-consecutive game.
"I think it's the little details that bring momentum and lose it," said winger Alex Belzile. "Sometimes, they're lucky bounces that aren't falling to our side."
Hamilton appeared to be finally finding its collective legs as the second period wound to a close.
Patrick Holland came closest to finding the Bulldogs' first goal with 5:30 to play in the period. A loose puck fell to him at the right hash marks, and only a timely block by a Baron defencemen kept Holland's wrist shot from the open net.
Danis was rarely called upon on Sunday, but produced two saves to deny a streaking Louis Leblanc from point-blank range and preserve his shutout bid with 14 minutes to play.
He admitted that maintaining focus can be difficult with so little work to do.
"Those games are not always easy, but you can't exactly ask the guys to allow shots," said Danis.
"We did our jobs and that's all you can ask for."
Oklahoma City added a fourth goal to seal the result at 9:11 of the third, when Rajala stole the puck behind the Hamilton net and banked an intended centering pass off Bulldog Petteri Nokelainen and in.
Making matters worse, Hamilton lost forwards Michael Bournival and Holland to injuries over the course of Sunday's game.