By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
KENT — The Everett Silvertips know they can play with Seattle. But now it’s going to take a miracle to overcome the Thunderbirds.
Everett and Seattle played their third consecutive tight contest, and for the third straight time it was the T-birds who finished on the winning end, prevailing 4-3 in overtime Tuesday night at ShoWare Center.
Mathew Barzal scored the winner 3 minutes, 47 seconds into overtime to give Seattle a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
Fourth-seeded Seattle and fifth-seeded Everett came into the postseason dead even. The teams finished with the same number of points during the regular season, and they split the season series 5-5.
The first three games of the playoff series reflected that evenness, with two one-goal games and one two-goal game. Indeed, the Tips outshot the T-birds in all three games — 31-29 Tuesday — and scored first in the past two. But Seattle found a way to win all three, giving the T-birds complete command of the series. Only twice in WHL history has a team rallied from a three-game deficit to win a seven-game series.
“They always play us tough, it’s always a tight game between us two,” Barzal said. “We thought we had one of our stronger games this series. Credit to them, they battled all 60 minutes. It was exciting and we’re real glad to come out with the W.”
Seattle will have a chance to clinch the series in Game 4 on Friday in Everett. Meanwhile, the Tips will have to find a way to emulate the Kelowna Rockets, who came back from a 3-0 deficit last year to defeat Seattle in the first round.
Scott Eansor scored two goals and Branden Troock also scored for Seattle, which fell behind three times in the game and tied it all three times. But despite being outshot and playing from behind much of the game, the T-birds were the aggressors throughout and largely controlled play. That was in contrast to Games 1 and 2, when the Tips had the edge in scoring chances, but struggled to convert.
Taran Kozun earned the win in goal with 28 saves.
Patrick Bajkov scored twice and Mirco Mueller also scored for Everett. Manraj Hayer set up all three goals. Austin Lotz finished with 25 saves in net for the Tips.
Everett was fortunate to get the game into overtime, surviving a late penalty as the Tips killed off 1:52 to end the third period and 0:08 at the start of the extra period. The Tips then had the first chance to win it as Zane Jones had a free look at goal, but was denied by Kozun.
Then Barzal made the winning play less than a minute later. Barzal spun away from Everett defenseman Cole MacDonald in the corner, circled around the net, then was forced into the high slot. But Barzal was still able to turn and slide a shot toward goal. The puck glanced off traffic and trickled just inside the post, sending the home crowd into a celebration.
“(Ryan) Gropp made a good chip in, then (Justin) Hickman did what he did all night, battled hard again and gave me the puck,” Barzal said. “I came around the net and we’ve been stressing pucks on net the entire series. I threw one at the net and I don’t know if it hit something or not, but it’s a good goal and I’m excited for the next game.”
The first period was an enigma. Seattle completely dominated play, overwhelming Everett physically and forcing turnovers. Lotz was forced to make four good saves before the game’s first whistle, which came 2:45 into the game.
But Seattle’s physical play also led to penalties, and the Tips took advantage twice on the power play to build a 2-1 lead completely against the run of play.
The Tips took the lead at 5:54 when a quick back-door pass from Hayer set up Bajkov for a one-timer, with Kozun having no idea where the puck was. The shot was Everett’s first on goal.
Seattle continued to control play five-on-five, and the T-birds tied it at 13:32. Seattle caught Everett in a line change, and although Russell Maxwell put his shot high, Roberts Lipsbergs was able to set up Troock at the back door during the ensuing scramble to make it 1-1.
But Everett continued to get power plays, and the Tips regained the lead with 59.6 seconds remaining. Once again it was the Hayer-Bajkov connection as Hayer pulled the puck out from a scrum at the side of the net and fed it to the far post for Bajkov to slam in, making it 2-1.
Seattle continued to be the initiator in the second period, and the T-birds tied it again at 4:02. Jerret Smith pushed a shot toward goal from the right point, and Eansor tipped it so that it gently floated over Lotz and into the back of the net, making it 2-2.
But again Everett regained the lead late in the period, this time with 2:06 remaining. On a quick counter attack, Joshua Winquist feathered the puck into the offensive zone for Hayer. Hayer then fed Mueller, jumping into the play from his defensive position, and Mueller was able to force the puck past Kozun to make it 3-2.
Seattle tied it a third time 4:31 into the third period. Yakubowski was able to keep an Everett clearance off the glass in the zone, then whipped a pass to the opposite slot, where Eansor snapped a shot past Lotz to knot it at 3-3.
Everett lost defenseman Noah Juulsen to injury in the first period. Juulsen remained down on the ice after being checked from behind by Seattle’s Jaimen Yakubowski, who was assessed a double-minor penalty on the play. Juulsen left the ice under his own power and temporarily stayed on the bench, but later left for the locker room and did not return. … The game was briefly delayed midway through the first period when Maxwell followed through with a hit on Mueller and a panel of glass popped free.
Thunderbirds 4, Silvertips 3
Everett 2 1 0 0 — 3
Seattle 1 1 1 1 — 4
First Period—1, Everett, Bajkov 2 (Hayer, Mueller), 5:54 (pp). 2, Seattle, Troock 2 (Lipsbergs, Maxwell), 13:32. 3, Everett, Bajkov 3 (Hayer), 19:00 (pp). Penalties—Elliot, Seattle (interference), 4:08; Smith, Seattle (delay of game), 9:49; Yakubowski, Seattle (checking from behind-checking from behind), 15:35; Leedahl, Everett (goaltender interference), 16:32.
Second Period—4, Seattle, Eansor 1 (Smith), 4:02. 5, Everett, Mueller 1 (Hayer, Winquist), 17:54. Penalties—Betker, Everett (unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:24; Hickman, Seattle (unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:24; Hickman, Seattle (tripping), 8:50; Winquist, Everett (elbowing), 12:19; Betker, Everett (high sticking), 14:12.
Third Period—6, Seattle, Eansor 2 (Yakubowski), 4:31. Penalties—Lipsbergs, Seattle (checking to the head), 4:46; Elliot, Seattle (kneeing), 10:00; Winquist, Everett (slashing), 10:52; Kozun, Seattle (unsportsmanlike conduct), 10:52; Everett bench (too many men, served by Stadnyk), 18:08.
Overtime—7, Seattle, Barzal 1 (Hickman, Gropp), 3:47. Penalties—none.
Shots on goal—Everett 14-7-8-2—31. Seattle 13-9-6-1—29. Power-play opportunities—Everett 2 of 7. Seattle 0 of 3.
Goalies—Everett, Lotz 0-3 (29 shots, 25 saves). Seattle, Kozun 3-0 (31 shots, 28 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.