If this game was a test of whether the Tips are a legitimate threat in the Western Conference this season, then Everett passed with flying colors.
For two periods Everett dominated Portland in a way I can’t imagine the Winterhawks have experienced often since the dark days of the pre-Bill Gallacher ownership. The Tips controlled the puck, put pressure on the Portland goal, and kept the high-flying Winterhawks offense bottled up completely. Through two periods Everett led 3-0 and outshot Portland 32-13.
Then in the third Portland began asserting itself, and combined with Everett penalties it quickly became a game again. Portland scored twice in the first five minutes of the third to get within one, and one had to wonder whether the Tips’ bubble was going to burst in a big way. Portland continued to press for the tying goal, and a lot of the third period it was one-way traffic as the shots were 13-1 at one point. It looked as though Everett was completely unprepared to deal with the prosperity of having Portland under wraps for two periods. But the Tips settled down in the closing minutes and managed to hold on.
While Everett ended up winning on the scoreboard and the shot clock, the third period does slightly cloud the prognosis regarding Everett’s ability to compete with Portland for honors this season. The Tips are going to have to learn how to maintain the intensity level for the entire contest and not leave the door cracked, because a team like Portland can turn that crack into a gaping opening in a heartbeat. But the first two periods were something I haven’t seen Everett do against Portland since 2009-10, and that makes me think the Tips are in it for the long haul.
This was a fun game to watch, too. Everett had a big showdown with Seattle two weekends ago, but that game proved rather anticlimactic as the 5-0 Tips victory was never a contest. However, this one lived up to the pregame buildup. We can only hope the rest of the season series proves equally compelling.
Really, the turning point was at the start of the third period, as the Winterhawks pushed the Tips back right from the opening puck drop. Then the two penalties that gave Portland a lengthy five-on-three when it was 3-1 pretty much guaranteed another Winterhawks goal and a white-knuckler the rest of the way.
First star: Tyler Sandhu, Everett. Two more goals, he has seven in his past five games. I think he likes playing with Joshua Winquist and Manraj Hayer.
Second star: Derrick Pouliot, Portland. One goal, let’s be honest, he was probably the best skater on the ice.
Third star: Matt Pufahl, Everett. Two assists, he played like a captain.
The Herald’s honorable mention: Austin Lotz, Everett. 24 saves, he may have spilled a rebound for Portland’s first goal, but he made up for it with the other saves he made, particularly in the third. Not a bad performance for a guy who hadn’t played since Oct. 26.