Winterhawks get jump on Everett
The Portland Winterhawks had plenty of jump from the start on Friday and got the jump on goalie Carter Hart and the Everett Silvertips in the first game of their Western Hockey League playoff series.
Five players scored for Portland as the forecheck set the tone early and the Winterhawks' big scorers came through late in a 5-2 win in front of 4,286 fans at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett.
Game 2 of this best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series is at 7 p.m. Saturday at Everett. Games 3 and 4 are in Portland on Tuesday and Thursday.
Portland built a three-goal lead on goals from unlikely scorers, but it was the fourth goal that meant the most for the visitors on Friday.
Everett had just pulled within one and time was running out in the second period as Kieffer Bellows skated out of his own zone with speed. He chipped the puck off the boards to get past a defenseman, then centered the puck into the crease, where Skyler McKenzie was able to chip the puck over Hart with 1.4 seconds on the clock to make it 4-2 Portland.
"Everybody was yelling from the bench how much time was left, and then Skyler went hard to the net," Winterhawks coach/GM/VP Mike Johnston said. "That was a big momentum turner going into the dressing room 4-2 instead of 3-2."
Despite getting outshot 11-5 in the third period, Portland controlled much of the final period and extended its lead on the fourth goal of this playoff season from Cody Glass.
The Hawks kept the Silvertips pinned in their own territory for long stretches — and killed off the only Everett power play early in the final period.
"Our conditioning has been good all year. We have confidence in third periods," Johnston said. "We've played well all year in those. When we have a lead, I feel that we are comfortable on the bench and make smart decisions with the puck."
Johnston was pleased with the way his team managed the puck most of the night, limiting the Silvertips to only three odd-man chances.
One of those was a breakaway for Everett's Patrick Bajkov, who came out of the penalty box for a breakaway chance with about 12 minutes left in the third period. Cole Kehler stood his round for that save. Bajkov then missed the net on a shot through traffic after circling back into the slot.
Portland showed no fatigue following its tough and emotional seven-game series with Spokane, setting the tone early with speed and forechecking pressure.
Portland got off to a fast start with goals from its third and fourth lines.
Just 2:13 into the game, Jake Gricius stuffed a rebound into an open net for his second playoff goal after Hart had stopped a shot from rookie defenseman John Ludvig.
Conor MacEachern's first playoff goal came in similar fashion at 9:32 of the first period. He put home a rebound of a shot from Reece Newkirk.
Portland's speed entering the attack zone and on the forecheck was effective early in the game, and the Hawks threw shots at Hart at every opportunity on their way to a 17-9 shots advantage in the first 20 minutes.
"I thought we were bang on our game early. I thought we had good jump, good energy." Johnston said. "We want to get shot volume. That's the way we play. We wanted to get out of the gate quick and get some shots and put them back on their heels a little bit, and I thought we did that."
After Portland's fast start, it was an action-packed second period that determined the outcome.
A blast from defenseman Ludvig made it 3-0 Winterhawks 2:52 into the second period. Ty Kolle, who had two assists, created the chance by carrying the puck hard to the net and sending the puck back into the slot, where it reached Ludwig near the top of the left-wing circle.
"It gives you a lot of jump when you have guys like MacEachern and Newkirk and Ty Kolle contributing offensively. It's hard on the other team cause they're trying to match (lines) and now you've got another line scoring," Johnston said.
A rebound goal from captain Matt Fonteyne at 12:36 of the second period put the Silvertips on the board, and Sean Richards converted on a quick developing odd-man rush with 1:07 left in the second period to make it 3-2.
In addition to the goals, there was some strong goaltending in the second period. Kehler robbed Fonteyne on a break-away with 5:10 left in the period, and Hart made a big stop on Bellows with 2:15 left in the period.
But the McKenzie goal at the end of period two changed the dynamic entering the third period. And, Portland re-established the three-goal lead when Glass scored between Hart's pads to make it 5-2 with 10:03 remaining — a play that came on a strong rush up the right wing after Everett had a strong offensive zone shift.
Everett's Connor Dewar had the best chances for the home team in the opening period, but Kehler came up with stops on shots from the low slot.
Kehler finished with 32 saves in another strong performance for the 20-year old.
Hart, who has lost three of his last four games against Portland, finished with 31 stops.
Both teams had one power play, each coming early in the third period.