By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Welcome back to the lineup, Jujhar Khaira.
Khaira celebrated his return from injury to set up the winning goal in overtime as the Everett Silvertips defeated the Vancouver Giants 4-3 in Monday’s Veteran’s Day matinee at Comcast Arena.
Khaira was one of Everett’s big offseason additions as the 19-year-old, who played last season for Michigan Tech University, signed a professional contract with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers and therefore surrendered his NCAA eligibility. However, the big centerman hadn’t played since Oct. 12, missing 10 games because of a lingering upper-body issue.
The Tips were thrilled to have him back Monday as, 1 minute, 7 seconds into overtime, he took the puck away from Vancouver goaltender Payton Lee behind the Giants net and feathered a pass out front, where Ivan Nikolishin put it away to give Everett the victory.
“Nikolishin dumped it in with a hard rim, the goalie got to it and turned,” Khaira explained. “I don’t know if he saw me or not, but I tried to seal the boards and it hit me right in the middle of the thighs and just dropped right in front of me. I saw Ivan in front and just tossed it out there. It was a good play by Ivan and a good finish by him.
“It was nice to get back out there,” Khaira added. “I’ve been sitting out for a month, so it’s nice to come and help the team.”
It was quite the eventful return for Khaira, despite being eased back into action on Everett’s fourth line. Aside from setting up the game winner, as he also was involved in multiple physical situations, including a third-period fight.
“I guess we’ll find out if he’s healthy because he took some hits, he fell against the boards in the corner, and he fought in front of our bench,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “If he came through all to that without any problems, then I guess he’s back. We started him on the fourth line on purpose, we didn’t want to overuse him in his first game back, we wanted him to have a game to get his legs under him and get back into it. As the game went on he looked like he was handling it fine and was into the game, so we decided to use him a little more as the game went on. Then he made the play in overtime, so it was very nice to see him back.”
Darcy DeRoose, Joshua Winquist and Carson Stadnyk scored the regulation goals for Everett (14-3-3-0). For DeRoose, who joined the Tips a week earlier, it was his first career WHL goal. Manraj Hayer added pair of assists for Everett.
Daniel Cotton earned the victory in goal for Everett, making 21 saves as the Tips were able to pull out the victory despite twice being unable to hold onto one-goal leads.
“I was impressed with Vancouver,” Constantine said. “I’m not taking anything away, in fact I think it’s a compliment to our guys because I thought Vancouver just made it hard to play. You didn’t have a lot of time, the puck is on the wall all the time, they win their battles on the wall, they’re strong on their sticks. Everything looks like almost a penalty, but they’re good enough that it’s not a penalty. They just make it extremely hard to play. Sometimes a game against a team like that doesn’t have a lot of wide-open ice or flow, and somehow we managed to battle through all of that. I liked that we hung in there and competed all day long and found a way to win.”
Former Silvertip Trent Lofthouse, Dalton Sward and Carter Popoff scored for Vancouver (8-11-2-1), which earned a point when Popoff tied it at 3-3 with less than five minutes remaining in regulation. Lee made 22 saves in net for the Giants.
“I thought we battled,” Vancouver coach Don Hay said. “Both teams battled. I thought we showed a lot of character coming back from being down twice. We came back and found a way to get a point. It was an unfortunate turnover in overtime, but I was pretty happy with our compete level against a good team. We knew it would be a competitive environment here in Everett and I thought we did a good job.”
After a scoreless first period, Vancouver took the lead early in the second, capitalizing on an Everett mistake. Everett defenseman Mirco Mueller’s pass to defensive partner Austin Adam was a little short, giving Sward the opportunity to strip Adam and break free on goal. Sward beat Cotton glove side to give the Giants a 1-0 lead at 3:22.
But less than a minute later DeRoose equalized for Everett. The puck was loose in the slot following a stretch of Tips shooting, and DeRoose found it and whipped it around Lee and into the corner to knot it at 1-1 at 4:21.
Everett then grabbed the lead with 1:59 remaining in the period. Mueller, making amends for his earlier miscue, won a board battle, rushed the puck into the offensive zone, then fed Manraj Hayer streaking off the bench. Hayer in turn whipped a pass to the back door, where Winquist slammed it in to make it 2-1.
Vancouver needed just 31 seconds in the third period to tie it back up. Brett Kulak’s shot from the point knocked Lofthouse’s stick out of his hands and deflected past Cotton, making it 2-2.
The Tips regained the lead again at 5:47 as Stadnyk’s backhanded centering feed from the right deflected off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Mason Geertsen and past a wrong-footed Lee. But Popoff outraced the defense to score at 15:48, forcing overtime.
Silvertips 4, Giants 3 (OT)
Vancouver 0 1 2 0 — 3
Everett 0 2 1 1 — 4
First Period—no goals. Penalties—Khaira, Everett (cross checking), 2:28; Betker, Everett (boarding), 6:17; Traber, Vancouver (tripping), 8:22.
Second Period—1, Vancouver, Sward 2, 3:22. 2, Everett, DeRoose 1 (Low, Bauml), 4:21. 3, Everett, Winquist 16 (Hayer, Mueller), 18:01. Penalties—none.
Third Period—4, Vancouver, Lofthouse 3 (Kulak, Popoff), 0:31. 5, Everett, Stadnyk 5 (Hayer, Winquist), 5:47. 6, Vancouver, Popoff 5 (Sward, Franson), 15:48. Penalties—McEvoy, Vancouver (fighting), 4:11; Low, Everett (fighting), 4:11; Traber, Vancouver (fighting), 6:52; Khaira, Everett (fighting), 6:52; Popoff, Vancouver (holding), 13:05; Hayer, Everett (checking from behind), 17:06.
Overtime—7, Everett, Nikolishin 5 (Khaira), 1:07. Penalties—none.
Shots on goal—Vancouver 7-9-7-1—24. Everett 9-10-6-1—26. Power-play opportunities—Vancouver 0 of 3. Everett 0 of 2.
Goalies—Vancouver, Lee 7-9-2-0 (26 shots, 22 saves). Everett, Cotton 5-1-2-0 (24 shots, 21 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.