Everett pulled off another stunning upset when the Tips defeated the Portland Winterhawks 3-2 Saturday night in Game 5 of their first-round WHL playoff series, keeping their season alive.
It all seemed academic after eighth-seeded Everett was thrashed by the top-seeded and heavily-favored Winterhawks 11-4 in Friday's Game 4 in Everett, giving Portland a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 5 in Portland seemed destined to be 60 minutes followed by a handshake line.
But Everett bounced back from Friday's humiliation in a way few expected.
"(Game 4) didn't go the way we planned, things got out of hand," said goaltender Austin Lotz, who made 43 saves in Game 5 to backstop Everett's victory. "We wanted to regroup and show we still could compete with this team. People were doubting us and we wanted to win to prove ourselves."
Everett built a 3-0 lead through two periods on goals by Joshua Winquist, Logan Aasman and Reid Petryk. Portland had more of the puck, outshooting Everett 32-13. But Everett bore down in its own zone, Lotz made saves, and the Tips proved opportunistic at the other end.
"I thought we went back to playing our game," Lotz said. "The previous two games we got goaded into playing their game and got away from keeping it simple. Last night we kept it simple, played hard and played Silvertip hockey.
"My teammates made it pretty easy for me," Lotz added. "Portland had more shots than in the previous games, but less scoring opportunities. Guys did a great job of keeping them outside and blocking shots, and we didn't take a lot of penalties."
The Tips did get into a little penalty trouble in the third period, with Portland scoring twice on the power play to pull within one. Then in the waning seconds the Winterhawks had one final chance, but the puck somehow stayed out just before the final horn sounded.
"The puck came from behind the net and I had to avoid it, otherwise it would have banked in," Lotz recalled about the sequence. "It went through my legs and right to (Ty) Rattie. Some people said he hit the post, some say it hit my skate. It's hard to tell on the replay."
Everett's two victories in the first five games of the series are one more than the Tips had in their 10-game season series with the Winterhawks. They're two more than Everett managed in the playoffs the past two years, when the Tips were twice swept in the first round.
Despite Saturday's victory, Everett still finds itself in a do-or-die situation. The Tips trail the series 3-2, meaning Everett needs another unexpected victory tonight in Game 6 in Everett. The two previous games played at Comcast Arena in the series were ugly for the Tips as Portland has outscored Everett 18-7. Things became particularly contentious in the third period of Game 4, with the teams trading a lot of both physical and verbal blows. Therefore, the Tips have to solve their issues at home.
"We just can't fall into all the stuff after the whistle," Lotz said. "We have to keep things clean and be mentally strong, because they have a lot of agitators on their team. They also have a lot of skill, so we can't get into a run-and-gun game. We have to slow them down, play good defense, then let the offense take care of itself."
And if the Tips can pull it all off, perhaps they'll be able to force a Game 7 no one was expecting.
Check out Nick Patterson's Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.
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