Star center nets first WHL hat trick
Ryan Johansen picked the right time for his first career Western Hockey League hat trick.
Portland's star center registered the three-goal game and the Winterhawks stormed past Kelowna in the second and third periods to beat the Rockets 6-3 Sunday before 8,053 fans at the Rose Garden to even their best-of-seven second-round WHL playoff series at one game each.
Game 3 is 7 p.m. Tuesday in Kelowna.
Johansen, the Hawks' leading scorer during the regular season, was happy to notch his first hat trick.
"Nino (Niederreiter) and (Brad) Ross have been setting me up for the past couple years, and seems like there was a bit of curse on me," said Johansen, the No. 4 pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in last year's NHL draft. "Definitely nice to finally get one in this league."
Trailing 1-0 in game score and the series, the Winterhawks played another strong second period, launching 20 shots on Kelowna goalie Adam Brown. And, this time it paid off. The Hawks scored four times, including Johansen's tally with eight seconds left, to take command of the game. Leading 5-3, Johansen put the game away with a goal on the power play with 1:37 left in the game.
The Hawks were a bit frustrated after the first period. Coaches and player talked about maintaining composure. Kelowna had scored when a puck bounced off Shane McColgan's leg and past goalie Mac Carruth.
"We didn't have quite the energy, our guys maybe looked a little nervous, knowing we had to win," coach Mike Johnston said. "We talked about sticking to the way we played. We're a shot team and we racked up a lot of shots, got to the crease against Brown, and we played a physical game."
The Winterhawks outshot the Rockets 52-28, including 19-5 in the third period.
Johansen was one of the Hawks frustrated, with his play, official's calls and the Rockets' tenacity.
"With the checking pressure, the way the physical game goes in the playoffs, it's going to get to you," Johnston said. "You can't go through frustration, you gotta channel it on the ice. I talked with Ryan and Riley Boychuk, and I thought they responded well. The second period we took momentum away from them. ... I also believe our conditioning is great, and throughout the season our record is good in the second and third periods."
Boychuk, playing on a line with Johansen and Niederreiter with Ross suspended, added three assists. Joe Morrow and Ty Rattie each had a goal and two assists.
McColgan's goal put Kelowna up 1-0. The Hawks evened the score on a pretty play, Sven Bartschi winning a faceoff, corraling the puck and feeding Rattie, who beat Brown at 6:55 of the second period. Craig Cunningham put Portland ahead 2-1, tipping home Taylor Aronson's blast from the point; the play was reviewed for possible high stick and the goal upheld.
Kelowna's Jessey Astles stepped out of the penalty, took a stretch pass and beat Carruth to tie the score. Later, Rattie fed Johansen with a gorgeous saucer pass over the stick of a Kelowna defender on a 2-on-1 break, and Johansen made no mistake in beating Brown.
Just as Kelowna used a late second-period goal in Game 1 to pad its lead, Johansen scored with 8.5 seconds left Sunday as Portland led 4-2.
"Boychuk had it along the wall and made contact with a guy," Johansen said, "and I tried to get the puck to the net. I knew Nino was right beside me. I was about to shoot, and mine and their defenseman's sticks collided and it went five hole. I'll take it."
Morrow skated into the slot and put Portland ahead 5-2 4:26 into the third period. After Kelowna's Colton Sissons scored on the power play, Johansen finished the scoring on the power play and hats flew on to the ice, signifying the hat trick.
When Portland needed him, Johansen stepped up.
"I felt like I didn't play that strong in the first game," he said. "I really wanted to make a response."
The Hawks made Brown, who allowed only one goal on 46 shots in Game 1, appear vulnerable.
"He's definitely an experienced goalie, really showed it in the first game," Johansen said. "The guys were a little frustrated after the first period, still couldn't find the back of the net. We wanted to make sure we were really getting to that net and making second and third opportunities. We frustrated him in the second and third periods."
The Hawks now play in Kelowna in Game 3 and Game 4 on Wednesday. Game 5 will be at 7 Friday night in the Rose Garden.
"It's always tougher on the road, especially in Kelowna, where they always have great crowds," Johansen said. "I love playing there, it's always a good atmosphere and a good game. We want to make sure we get off to a really good start in both games. That'll be key for the momentum for us."