EVERETT — It was a game the Everett Silvertips had to have.
One night after ceding their U.S. Division and Western Conference lead to the Seattle Thunderbirds, the Tips dismantled the visiting T-birds 4-2 before 8,249 fans at Xfinity Arena.
It was a decisive, statement-making victory for the Tips (39-14-8-3, 89 points), who had beaten Seattle only once in the previous six matchups as Everett watched its lead dwindle from what was once double digits.
“I don’t know if I would have had to say that though because I think they knew that and we haven’t done well against Seattle,” Everett head coach Kevin Constantine said. “You combine not playing well against Seattle with a must-win game, and our guys had the right response for the game.”
In its penultimate regular-season home contest, Everett scored the game’s first three goals and snapped their three-game losing streak to move back into the division lead and tie Prince George for the top spot in the conference by a single point over Seattle (41-19-4-2, 88 points).
“We all know what’s at stake,” said Everett forward Connor Dewar, who scored Everett’s first goal at the tail end of Seattle’s first power play. “It’s a big game for the division lead and we came out on top.”
And, it didn’t take a perfect game from Carter Hart between the pipes for Everett to come away with the victory. He had a 3-0 lead before the first media timeout and finished with 15 saves as Everett fired 40 shots to Seattle’s 17.
Four different Tips scored and Kevin Davis had two assists in one of Everett’s most balanced outings of the season.
Everett took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. It remained 3-1 through the second as the Tips held Seattle to a single shot in the frame while Everett fired off 14 of its own.
“We hadn’t been playing very good in the second period with a lead,” Constantine said. “I thought our second was much better than it had been with a lead over the last three or four games so that was an important part of the game too.”
Patrick Bajkov added another just 53 seconds into the third when he scored off a feed from linemate Dominic Zwerger on the rush to push the lead to 4-1.
Keegan Kolesar showed the T-birds weren’t finished when he fired a laser from the left circle that beat Hart over his left shoulder at 6:45 to cut the deficit to 4-2.
But that was it for the scoring as the Tips earned two late power plays that helped them kill the rest of the clock.
In the first period the Tips killed their first penalty and then the goals came fast and furious. As the Thunderbirds were transitioning back to five skaters, Dewar stole the puck from Kolesar at the Seattle blue line and beat Rylan Toth with a wrister from the high slot for a 1-0 lead at 5:51.
“It’s important at home especially in front of the crowd to get the energy in the building going,” Dewar said. “It’s something I dreamed about growing up as a kid and I just had to play my game. I just had a good stick on it and shot the puck.”
Dewar, a second-year forward, has often shown a knack for timely scoring. His 12th tally of this season was no exception.
“He scores in big moments — he’s always been able to do that and to me that was a big moment goal,” Constantine said. “I think he’s a big-time player. It doesn’t surprise me that on a night like tonight that was a big crowd and an important game that he was one of our better players.”
Devon Skoleski pushed it to 2-0 when he beat Toth blocker side following a point shot from Lucas Skrumeda at 6:50. Then, just a minute later, Riley Sutter stashed a rebound of a Kevin Davis point shot to make it 3-0.
“I thought both teams were just a little off in the first five minutes in terms of passing and all of that,” Constantine said. “And so a moment like that — are they going to score on the power play or are we going to get a score — is good. And then getting two right away was also very important.”
That led to Toth being pulled for rookie backup Carl Stankowski. It was a stunning start that was essentially the polar opposite of last week’s 6-1 debacle won by the T-birds last Sunday in Kent.
Seattle got one back at 14:00 when Austin Strand took a feed from Mathew Barzal in at the net front, spun and flicked the puck past Hart and the period ended with Everett leading 3-1.
Stankowski, Seattle’s 16-year-old rookie goaltender, saved 33 of the 34 shots he faced after relieving Toth.
The Tips return to action at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday when they travel to Spokane. Seattle and Everett conclude their 10-game regular-season tilt at 7:35 p.m. Friday at ShoWare Center in Kent.
Silvertips 4, Thunderbirds 2
Seattle 1 0 1 — 2
Everett 3 0 1 — 4
1st Period—1, Everett, Dewar 12 5:51. 2, Everett, Skoleski 13 (Skrumeda, Kindopp), 6:50. 3, Everett, Sutter 18 (Davis), 7:50 (PP). 4, Seattle, Strand 8 (Barzal, Gropp), 14:00. Penalties—Sutter Evt (tripping), 3:50; Terretta Sea (tripping), 7:48; Sutter Evt (tripping), 15:37; Moilanen Sea (interference), 17:31.
2nd Period—No Scoring. Penalties—True Sea (roughing), 8:35; Richards Evt (roughing), 8:35; Strand Sea (hooking), 11:53; Brown Sea (high sticking), 14:40.
3rd Period—5, Everett, Bajkov 27 (Zwerger, Davis), 0:53. 6, Seattle, Kolesar 25 6:45. Penalties—Kolesar Sea (holding), 11:43; Volcan Sea (roughing), 15:02; Ottenbreit Sea (elbowing), 16:44.
Shots on Goal—Seattle 10-1-6-17. Everett 14-14-12-40.
Power Play Opportunities—Seattle 0 / 2; Everett 1 / 7.
Goalies—Seattle, Toth 34-18-2-1 (6 shots-3 saves); Stankowski 1-0-0-1 (34 shots-33 saves). Everett, Hart 28-9-6-2 (17 shots-15 saves).
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