Spokane controls Hawks, wins series opener 2-1
Chiefs outshoot Hawks 43-28; Spokane goalie Reid plays well
Portland dropped another home game to Spokane, and fell behind 1-0 in another series.
But, the Winterhawks have recovered from such losses before - see: second round versus Kelowna - and the 2-1 loss Friday night before 7,642 fans at the Rose Garden only serves as an example of how Portland needs to adjust and improve to beat the Spokane Chiefs.
"We're not too worried, yet," forward Ty Rattie said.
In a rematch of last year's seven-game playoff series, in which the road team won every game, including Game 7 with Rattie burying an overtime winner, the Chiefs left happy in the first game of the Western Hockey League Western Conference finals.
The Chiefs stole the win - its fourth in five games at the Rose Garden this season - even playing without leading scorer Tyler Johnson, who served a one-game suspension for a major kneeing penalty in the previous series finale against Tri-City.
Spokane, which finished a point behind Portland in the U.S. Division and conference standings, outworked and outshot the Winterhawks.
Portland managed to score with 24 seconds left, Ryan Johansen netting the puck as the Hawks played with an extra attacker.
So, for 59 minutes, 36 seconds, the Chiefs held the Winterhawks scoreless. Credit goes to goalie James Reid, as well as the Chiefs not allowing many second chances.
"They kind of outworked us for the first half of the game, the last half we had more chances," Johansen said. "The last two minutes is how we have to come out in games and play for a full 60 (minutes)."
Said Portland coach Mike Johnston: "They did a good job in their zone shutting us down, not giving us second-chance opportunities, smothering us a little bit ... I don't think we won enough of the puck battles. ... We didn't have a lot of puck possession time; when you have puck possession time, you want to get traffic to the net. In the (offensive) zone, we've got to get it up to our defensemen. They used their defensemen better than we did tonight."
The Hawks had about a dozen good scoring opportunities that failed because of Reid, along with their missed shots and passes that went awry. The most glaring opportunities not to come to fruition: Rattie missing an open net on Reid in the second period, Reid snagging Sven Bartschi's shot at an empty net in the third and Nino Niederreiter fanning and then shooting the puck into Reid's stomach in the third.
On the Rattie play, the puck crossed through the crease twice without a bingo-bango-bongo result.
"I looked up for a second, I thought (the teammate) was going to shoot," Rattie said. "I looked down and the puck was already on my stick. That stuff happens."
Johansen said the Winterhawks have to be sharper on plays and decision-making, offensively, for Game 2, 5 p.m. Sunday at the Rose Garden.
"We've got to be a little bit more crisp in the offensive zone and create better chances for us," he said.
Added Rattie: "They're a really aggressive team, in the offensive zone buzzing around cycling the puck, in the defensive zone - if pucks are in the corner, they swarm them with three and four guys. ... They're a good team, really structured defensively. We were talking in the dressing room (afterward), and we can find holes in them. That's where we have to capitalize."
Spokane scored at 2:11 of the first period, with Brady Brassart sneaking his own rebound shot under the leg pad of Portland goalie Mac Carruth. It was a soft goal.
"The puck came off, and (Carruth) thought (Brassart) would shoot it harder, quicker than he did," Johnston said. "The puck kind of knuckled, (Carruth's) timing was off, his feet were apart. He was ready for the rebound, it knuckled on him."
Then, 4:25 into the second period, Levko Koper took a pass from Steven Kuhn and beat Carruth on the power play, with Johansen in the box for hooking.
From there, it was a matter of the Hawks missing on their opportunities.
"I thought (Carruth) was really good," Johnston said, "and Reid was good, too, he didn't give us many loose pucks, rebounds."
The Chief outshot the Hawks 43-28, and Portland went 0 for 3 on the power play.