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BY PAUL DANZER/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Silvertips ride early 3-0 lead to 6-2 win at Memorial Coliseum, lead series, 2-1

For the second time in as many games, the Everett Silvertips grabbed an early lead on the Portland Winterhawks. For the top defensive team in the Western Hockey League, that is a prime path to success.

Tuesday's fast start led to a 6-2 Everett victory. The Winterhawks now trail the Silvertips 2-1 in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.

Before 4,438 fans at Memorial Coliseum, Everett scored three goals in the first 10 minutes.

"We can't chase the game like that," Winterhawks VP/GM/coach Mike Johnston said.

Portland will need a better start in Game 4, 7 p.m. Thursday at Moda Center.

The Winterhawks pulled to within 3-2 late in the second period on Tuesday, only to see Everett score on its next shift to restore a two-goal lead.

The Silvertips have outscored the Hawks 12-2 over the last two games, and with the first three goals on Tuesday had tallied nine in a row.

Not surprisingly, Johnston was talking defense after the game.

"We have to play better defensively," he said. "As I said to the guys, it's a game of inches and we were a foot away from coverage at times or a little bit too relaxed in coverage. Our defensive habits have to be better."

The Winterhawks out-shot Everett, 42-28.

From midway through the first period until Martin Fasko-Rudas scored to make the score 5-2 seven minutes into the third period, Portland carried most of the play.

But Everett goalie Carter Hart, the MVP of the WHL West during the regular season, made 40 saves, among them a few big stops when Portland did get the puck to prime scoring spots.

"We had some really good chances tonight. We had two goals and probably at least could have had two more," Johnston said. "I thought Hart made three or four great saves. But you've got to get traffic to him and you've got to create rebounds. It's part of how you shoot the puck from the outside. Put it in a spot where there's going to be a rebound."

Portland did that in Game 1, claiming an early lead with goals from in tight in the 5-2 win.

"You just have to battle," said Portland defenseman Dennis Cholowski, who scored his fifth goal of the playoffs on Tuesday when he beat Hart on a wrap-around play late in the first period. "Forwards have to battle to get to the front of the net, and as defensemen we need to get the puck through and eventually a couple of them are going to go in."

A power-play blast by Kieffer Bellows pulled Portland to within 3-2. The goal came 14:11 into the second period, shortly after Portland killed off 37 seconds of five-on-three power-play time for Everett. Momentum was squarely in the Hawks' camp.

But just when it seemed that momentum would produce real results, Everett had the answer, responding with a strong shift that ended with Reece Vitelli depositing the puck into an open net off a Kevin Davis shot that found its way through traffic and into the crease for a tap-in finish. The chance came after Conor Dewar slashed the stick away from Portland's Ty Kolle to keep possession and sent a pass to Davis in space.

"We have to be in better coverage position there," Johnston said.

Cholowski scored his second wrap-around goal of the playoffs to make the score 3-1 and give Portland some life at 15:35 of the first period.

Portland continued to push and created several chances before the period ended, but Hart was up to the task, including on a deflection by Bellows off a Brendan De Jong point shot.

After winning Game 2 by a 6-0 score, Everett built a 3-0 lead in the first 10 minutes on Tuesday by creating odd-man opportunities and by getting bodies to the net.

Riley Sutter scored twice. First, he slid a shot through goalie Cole Kehler on an odd-man break out of the neutral zone 4:35 into the game.

Bryce Kindopp made the score 2-0 at 7:43 of the first on another strong entry play by the Silvertips. Gianni Fairbrother made a strong play, carrying the puck into the slot to initiate a quick passing combination that gave Kindopp a wide-open net on the back door.

"To score early, they got a little bit of momentum a little bit of juice," Johnston said. "Then they got another one and kind of put us back on our heels again. I thought the first goal was a weak one, for sure."

Moments after Alex Overhardt tried to wake up the coliseum crowd by fighting with Sean Richards, Sutter made it a 3-0 game with a deflection off a point shot by Ondrej Vala.

From there, Portland started to dictate play. But against a disciplined bunch of Silvertips, playing catch-up is risky business.

"For sure it's frustrating," said Cholowski about the way the Silvertips clog the neutral zone when playing with a lead. "They form a wall at the red line, and it's tough to get through. That's why we can't let them have an early lead. We have to jump on them early and get a few goals.

"Battling a little harder and bearing down on our chances and I think we'll be fine on Thursday."

Perhaps the Hawks will get a boost from playing Game 4 at Moda Center. They have been far more successful there this season then at the coliseum.

"We have played well there, and usually we get good crowds there," Johnston said. "So, yes, you're looking for any edge you can get."

• Portland forward Lane Gilliss (lower body) is out after leaving Game 2 in the third period. Johnston said he will not play in Game 4.

Connor Barley, who joined Portland during the Spokane series, came back into the lineup on a line with Jake Gricius and Mason Mannek.

• Joachim Blichfeld had two assists for Portland.

• Kindopp and Dewar had a goal and assist for Everett, Dewar's goal into an empty net with 2:05 left.

Patrick Bajkov and Davis had two assists apiece for Everett.

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