by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Tayler Jordan of the Portland Winterhawks slams a Vancouver Giants player into the boards during a 5-3 home victory Wednesday night.

The Portland Winterhawks are inching toward the Western Hockey League U.S. Division and Western Conference titles.

The Winterhawks (48-18-0-3) scored goals on their first three shots of the game en route to a 5-3 win over the visiting Vancouver Giants (33-31-1-4) Wednesday at the Rose Garden.

The win gives the Winterhawks 99 points on the season, as they remain first in the Western Conference, one point ahead of Spokane, which beat Chilliwack 2-1 Wednesday in a shootout.

The Winterhawks opened the scoring 55 seconds into the game on a goal by defenseman Troy Rutkowski, then made it 2-0 at the 5:36 mark on the 38th goal of the season by Ryan Johansen, after which Vancouver replaced starting netminder Mark Segal with Brendan Jensen.

Just under three minutes following Johansen's goal, the Winterhawks scored their third goal on their third shot of the game when Seth Swenson beat Jensen for his third goal of the season, giving the Hawks a 3-0 lead they'd take into the second period.

Portland kept up the pressure in the second period, with Brad Ross scoring 3:31 into the period with a goal at the doorstep, his 30th of the season, to make it 4-0.

But the Giants fought back and scored three straight to get back into the game. They got on the board at the 4:26 mark when Nathan Burns scored on a wraparound, then scored again at the 13:12 mark when a shot by James Henry got through a crowd and past Portland goaltender Keith Hamilton to make it 4-2. The Giants pulled to within one at the 17:21 mark when Greg Lamoureux scored off a faceoff to cut the Hawks' lead 4-3 going into the third period.

The game remained tight through the third period, and at the 14:20 mark Riley Boychuk scored a highlight-reel goal when the puck came to him in the crease and he scored with a between-the-legs shot to give the Hawks a 5-3 lead, a score that would stand as the final.

The Winterhawks will close out the regular season with three games in three nights this weekend, beginning at 7 p.m. Friday against Seattle at Rose Garden, and continuing at 7 Saturday night at Seattle and 5 p.m. Sunday in the Rose Garden against Spokane.

The playoffs will then begin the following weekend, when the Winterhawks host the first game at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 26 and the second at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 27, both games in the Rose Garden.

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