Everett rally stuns Winterhawks
In less than a minute on Thursday, the Portland Winterhawks saw a late lead turn to one tough defeat.
Just 55 seconds after Henri Jokiharju put Portland in front, the Everett Silvertips had two goals and a 3-2 victory that put them up 3-1 in the best-of-seven Western Hockey League playoffs.
Portland must now win three in a row to advance to the conference finals, beginning with Game 5 at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Everett. If the Hawks win that, Game 6 will be at 5 p.m. Sunday at Moda Center.
Almost as quickly as fortunes turned against them, and before boarding their bus for the trip to Everett, the Winterhawks sounded ready to turn the page.
The postgame chatter was about how well they played, and how the bounces will start to go their way if they play more games like Thursday's, when they out-shot the Silvertips 46-26, including 28-9 through the first two periods.
Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks VP/GM/coach, said his players understand they produced a winning effort on Thursday, even if it was the Silvertips who left the ice jubilant.
"They know we played a great game," Johnston said. "We played a great Game 1 up in Everett. We controlled the play, and we won that game. The series should be 2-2."
Team captain Keoni Texeira echoed his coach.
"We played really well the whole game," Texeira said. "In my eyes, we dominated them, and I'm sure the team feels the same. We had a couple of unfortunate breakdowns at the end there that cost us the game."
Two third-period goals from defensemen had the Hawks in front with 2:07 left.
But only nine seconds after Jokihaju put Portland up 2-1 with a power-play blast from the left-wing circle that had the 7,312 fans in Moda Center celebrating, the Silvertips tied it.
Connor Dewar took a shot from the left-wing boards that Portland goalie Cole Kehler blocked aside. The puck landed on the stick of Garret Pilon at the right-wing face-off dot. Pilon's one-timer found the back of the net.
The turn of events went from discouraging to disappointing 46 seconds later.
Defenseman Wyatte Wylie, an Everett native, carried the puck into the zone, then went to the front of the net. Patrick Bajkov skated into the right-wing circle and sent a pass along the ice that Wylie got his stick on. The puck bounced over Kehler's pad and dribbled over the goal line.
Wylie's first playoff goal will go down in Silvertips lore, but the star of the show was once again the best goalie the WHL has seen in quite some time. Carter Hart's 44 saves included a few special stops.
Portland was teritorially dominant for long stretches. Despite a strong second period, when the Hawks were out-shooting the Silvertips, 12-3, Everett's star goalie had an answer every time Portland had a promising look.
That included squeezing his pads to deny Kieffer Bellows on a breakaway out of the penalty box, and going post to post to get a piece of the puck when it appeared Cody Glass had an open net off a Joachim Blichfeld feed.
So, Everett carried a 1-0 lead into the third period — thanks to a flukey goal with 1:01 left in the first period when a point shot by Wylie Wylie bounced off of Dewar in front and landed out of Kehler's reach.
Brendan De Jong evened up things after Alex Overhardt won an offensive zone face-off to Blichfeld. Overhardt went to the net, screening Hart's vision as De Jong took a pass from Blichfeld and fired it home from the top of the left-wing circle.
That goal came shortly after the Hawks killed off two penalties, including 55 seconds of five-on-three time for the 'Tips.
The go-ahead goal from Jokiharju came on a wrister through traffic from almost the same spot as De Jong's goal as Portland cashed in on its third power-play of the night.
Alas, the lead was short-lived. Now the Hawks face elimination with one more loss.
"It's tough to lose that way. But I love the resiliency in our team, and I think we're going to come out huge next game," said Bellows, who had seven shots on goal plus a first-period effort that rang off the post.
As tough as the end of the game was to swallow, Johnston said it's much easier to cope when the players understand how well they played.
"If we had won tonight or we win tomorrow night, the momentum shifts," Johnston said. "We saw that in the series against Spokane. They won Game 5, then they won Game 6, and it a became a flip of a coin who was going to win that series."