By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Landon Oslanski was particularly exuberant during Tuesday afternoon’s Everett Silvertips practice at Comcast Arena, full of big smiles and playful whoops.
It was the kind of boyish enthusiasm made possible by a great weight being lifted off the team’s collective shoulders.
The mood has lightened in Silvertips land since Everett snapped its franchise-worst 11-game losing streak by winning 3-2 in overtime at Seattle on Saturday.
“That losing streak was a rough road for us,” said Oslanski, who assisted on all three Everett goals in Saturday’s streak-busting victory. “But it’s part of hockey, you go through those things, and we just battled out of it. It’s a good thing we came through. We’re a lot happier when we’re winning, and we’re going to move forward from there.”
Everett hadn’t won in nearly a month. The Tips had surrendered seventh place in the Western Conference to Seattle. And Everett found itself back in a dogfight just to make the playoffs after being in seemingly safe position. The season was in danger of spiraling out of control.
But Saturday’s win put the brakes on the slide, and the Tips are in better spirits as they head into the final three weeks of the regular season.
“It was better energy today, there was good jump out there, and the guys were pretty positive,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said.
“(Saturday’s win) takes the monkey off our back,” Davidson added. “Hopefully we can build upon the win and get some more as we go forward in the last 10 games.”
Everett seemed well-positioned to end the losing streak against Seattle as the Tips took a 2-0 lead into the third period. However, ending long losing streaks rarely comes easy, and Seattle tied it in the third to force overtime. When the T-birds tied it, were the Tips thinking, “Here we go again?”
“Absolutely not,” Oslanski said. “We stayed calm on the bench, stuck together as a group of 20 and came through in the end.”
Everett held on for the remainder of the third period to ensure at least one point. Then in OT Oslanski created the game-winning goal for Mirco Mueller to provide the Tips their catharsis.
“Oslanski got the puck, Mirco jumped up big time, Lando really sold the shot and everyone bit on it,” Davidson said. “He threw it to the back door and Mirco had lots of room to put it in. It was a great goal, a nice overtime goal.
“I thought we played pretty good, despite the fact we gave up a two-goal lead,” Davidson added. “They got one on the power play, and I thought they were fortunate to get the second one. I don’t know how it got through all that traffic and found its way to the net. Saying that, I think we might have ran out of a little energy in the third. But for all intents and purposes we played a pretty solid game.”
Saturday’s victory gave Everett a small cushion to work with during the final 10 games of the season. The Tips occupy the eighth-and-final playoff position in the conference, five points ahead of ninth-place Prince George. Both teams have 10 games remaining.
Everett also crept back within one point of Seattle for seventh. The difference between finishing seventh and eighth is significant. The team that finishes seventh has its hands full as it will likely have to face the B.C. Division champion, either Kelowna or Kamloops. However, the eighth-place team is almost certain to encounter the Portland Winterhawks juggernaut that has steamrolled all within its path this season en route to the league’s best record.
The Tips will be challenged to keep the momentum going. Everett entertains a tough Spokane team tonight at Comcast Arena. On Friday and Saturday, the Tips welcome the top team in each conference, hosting Eastern Conference leader Edmonton on Friday and Portland on Saturday.
But with the losing streak over, the Tips are determined to make their push into the playoffs.
“We’re here to make the playoffs, that’s our goal,” Oslanski said. “We’re going to do the best we can, work right through the next 10 games and hopefully come through.”
Everett center Manraj Hayer, who sat out last weekend’s games because of a lower-body injury, practiced Tuesday and is expected back tonight against Spokane. Winger Ryan Harrison missed Tuesday’s practice because of illness. Davidson said he was hopeful Harrison would be well enough to play tonight.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.