The Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds were both stranded in the desert, desperately in need of a revitalizing sip of victory to lift their flagging spirits.
And in the end, it was Seattle that received succor.
In a game between teams sinking fast, the T-birds grabbed a sudden lead in the first period and shut down the Tips in the third and knocked off Everett 4-1, further tightening the race for the final two playoff spots in the WHL's Western Conference.
The loss was Everett's 10th straight, which matched the franchise record for worst losing streak. The other 10-gamer occurred last season.
Everett also was caught by Seattle for seventh place in the conference, with Prince George creeping within three points of the Tips. Eight teams make the playoffs.
"It's tough," said Tips center Manraj Hayer, who scored Everett's goal. "We've been giving it our all these past three weeks during the losing streak. Obviously guys are going to be frustrated, but we know we've got to keep our heads up because there's still 12 games left and we have to be at our best for those."
Both teams came into the game riding lengthy losing streaks -- Seattle had dropped seven straight -- so each was in dire need of having something positive happen. Despite combining for 16 consecutive losses, the teams played a compelling game before an electric sold-out crowd at Comcast Arena.
Seattle then scored twice in the final 1 minute, 8 seconds of the first period, just seconds after Everett had opened the scoring, to turn the game in its favor. Everett was never able to find a second goal, and the T-birds put the game away in the third. The Silvertips have been unable to find the net during their skid, scoring just 10 goals in the 10 losses,
"It's hard to win hockey games when you only score one goal a game," Everett interim coach Garry Davidson said. "We had some pretty good chances.
"I've talked about this with the team a lot that we don't shoot enough," Davidson added. "I thought we did try to get more shots off today, but I thought our accuracy ... a lot of shots were missing the net or getting blocked. We're not getting them onto the net, and that's why we continue to score one and two goals a game."
Alexander Delnov and Roberts Lipsbergs scored the two turning goals late in the first period for Seattle (20-32-6-1), then Adam Kambeitz scored late in the third to add insurance. Shea Theodore finished off with an empty-net goal. Brandon Glover earned the win with 20 saves.
"It was a big game," Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said. "It was definitely like a playoff game. We didn't hide from it and addressed it that we wanted to see which one of our guys would step up, if not several. Overall, it was a good team effort."
Daniel Cotton finished with 24 saves in goal for Everett (21-34-1-4).
The Tips thought they'd started on the right foot late in the first period. First, Brayden Low put the puck in the net after Hayer had shot high on a breakaway, only to have the goal waived off because of a mysterious whistle. Then Hayer made amends for his miss by rifling a shot into the top of the net while on the power play at 18:20 following a nice feed from Dawson Leedahl.
But the T-birds quickly turned the tables. Before the home fans were even done celebrating, Seattle tied it as the puck came to Delnov in the slot and he one-timed it into the corner 32 seconds later. Then Lipsbergs fired a shot into the top corner off the rush at 19:46 as the T-birds went ahead 2-1.
Everett had chances in the second period, but couldn't put them away. Then the Tips were unable to get anything going offensively in the third, and Seattle put it away just as a power play expired at 14:06, Jerret Smith's shot from the point deflecting off Kambeitz and slowly rolling past Cotton's foot at the near post.
"I think our guys were trying (in the third period), but you have to give the other team some credit, too," Davidson said. "They didn't give us much space or room out there to make anything happen. They shut us down pretty good in the third.
"We're down to 12 games and every game is going to be like a playoff game going forward."
Thunderbirds 4, Silvertips 1
Seattle 2 0 2 --4
Everett 1 0 0 --1
First Period--1, Everett, Hayer 13 (Leedahl, Cox), 18:20 (pp). 2, Seattle, Delnov 18 (Hickman), 18:52. 3, Seattle, Lipsbergs 22 (Honey), 19:46. Penalties--Wardley, Seattle (holding), 9:07; Theodore, Seattle (high sticking), 13:17; Hayer, Everett (elbowing), 13:40; Foulk, Seattle (high sticking), 15:54; Hauf, Seattle (checking from behind), 16:43.
Second Period--no goals. Penalties--Delnov, Seattle (slashing), 7:24; Oslanski, Everett (interference), 11:41; Sheen, Seattle (roughing), 19:42; Cox, Everett (roughing), 19:42.
Third Period--4, Seattle, Kambeitz 12 (Hickman, Swenson), 14:06. 5, Seattle, Theodore 15, 19:39 (en). Penalties--Skapski, Everett (delay of game), 9:38; Everett bench (too many men, served by Aasman), 12:05.
Shots on goal--Seattle 13-6-9--28. Everett 10-8-3--21. Power-play opportunities--Seattle 0 of 4. Everett 1 of 5.
Goalies--Seattle, Glover 19-24-4-1 (21 shots, 20 saves). Everett, Cotton 9-17-0-2 (27 shots, 24 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson's Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.
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