By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips still have a high summit to scale. but Friday night they took their first step up the mountain in emphatic fashion.
Everett finally got on the board in its first-round playoff series against the Seattle Thunderbirds, blowing out the T-birds 6-1 at Comcast Arena.
The Tips found themselves with the near-impossible task of overcoming a 3-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series after dropping close ones in the first three games. But inspired by Jujhar Khaira’s hat trick, the Tips made sure there was no danger of Friday’s Game 4 being another close defeat.
“It was do or die and we did what we had to do,” said Khaira, who opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game, then completed his hat trick with two goals in two minutes early in the third period. “We came out and we proved it.
“I think we’ve been playing well, I just think the bounces went our way tonight,” Khaira added. “It’s nice when that happens.”
Joshua Winquist, Brayden Low and Carson Stadnyk also scored for Everett, which still must win three straight to advance to the second round, beginning with tonight’s Game 5 in Kent. Only twice in WHL history has a team rallied to win a best-of-seven series after falling behind 3-0.
“We’re just going to take it game by game, survive and advance,” Khaira said. “We got this one, but tomorrow’s a new day and a new game, so we’re going to approach it like today. We’re going to try to win that one as well.”
Austin Lotz earned the win in goal with 17 saves.
Jared Hauf scored the lone goal for Seattle. Taran Kozun stopped 23 of 29 shots in goal for Seattle before being lifted in the third period. Danny Mumaugh stopped all five shots he faced in relief.
Everett, needing an epic comeback to advance past the first round for the first time since 2007, came out and played its best period of the series in the first.
Just 1 minute, 27 seconds into the game, Khaira got the Tips on the scoreboard. He used his size and strength to hold off the defense as he came out from behind the net, then lifted a backhander over Kozun’s shoulder to make it 1-0.
Just more than a minute later it was 2-0. Seattle went on the power play, but it was Everett that scored. Manraj Hayer corralled the puck in the Everett zone and steamed the other direction one-on-one. He spied Winquist jumping into the play and flipped a pass across for Winquist to put away at 2:32, prompting Seattle coach Steven Konowalchuk to use his timeout.
But the Tips kept coming and made it 3-0 ay 7:57. Everett cycled the puck down low, and eventually Low squeezed a shot from a tight angle past Kozun at the near post.
“We’ve been looking for that start,” Khaira said. “It was nice. We needed today and we got it.”
Kozun had to make a big save on Zane Jones during an Everett power play midway through the second period to keep it a three-goal game, then the T-birds got a lucky one late in the period to stay in the game. Hauf flipped a lazy shot toward goal from the left point, but Lotz never saw it and it bounced into the far corner, making it 3-1 at 18:22.
But any hope Seattle had of coming back quickly evaporated in the third as the T-birds took two early penalties, with Khaira punishing them both times. Khaira restored Everett’s three-goal lead at 3:30, putting in a rebound when Matt Pufahl’s shot from the point was blocked in front by teammate Dawson Leedahl. Then just 1:51 later Khaira struck again, putting in a rebound from Leedahl’s shot on the rush to send the hats flying onto the ice.
“It was nice,” Khaira said about scoring the hat trick. “I’ve been getting a lot of chances and it’s nice when the bounces go in. It felt pretty good.”
Another 1:27 and it was 6-1. Seattle was in the process of getting another penalty when Stadnyk was able to poke home a rebound at 6:48.
Seattle tried to get physical with the Tips the rest of the way, but the Tips were able to salt away the rest of the game to keep their slim hopes alive.
Everett played without defenseman Noah Juulsen. The 16-year-old was unable to complete Tuesday’s Game 3 after being checked from behind by Seattle’s Jaimen Yakubowski in the first period. With Juulsen, veteran Austin Adam returned to the lineup. … Yakubowski also didn’t play Friday as he was suspended one game by the league for the hit on Juulsen, which drew a double-minor penalty. Yakubowski was replaced in the lineup by Calvin Spencer. … For the second straight game Everett had a defenseman not finish the game as Cole MacDonald left in the second period and did not return.
Silvertips 6, Thunderbirds 1
First Period—1, Everett, Khaira 1 (Low, Nikolishin), 1:27. 2, Everett, Winquist 1 (Hayer), 2:32 (sh). 3, Everett, Low 1 (Khaira, Nikolishin), 7:57. Penalties—Leedahl, Everett (tripping), 2:15; Wardley, Seattle (roughing), 9:46; Wardley, Seattle (hooking), 14:08; Troock, Seattle (roughing), 18:06; Mueller, Everett (roughing), 18:06.
Second Period—4, Seattle, Hauf 1 (Gropp, Barzal), 18:22. Penalties—Khaira, Everett (roughing), 3:30; Mueller, Everett (boarding), 5:33; Spencer, Seattle (slashing), 8:46.
Third Period—5, Everett, Khaira 2 (Leedahl, Pufahl), 3:30 (pp). 6, Everett, Khaira 3 (Leedahl), 5:21 (pp). 7, Everett, Stadnyk 2 (Betker, Winquist), 6:48. Penalties—Hauf, Seattle (hooking), 3:08; Bear, Seattle (tripping), 4:46; McKechnie, Seattle (instigator-fighting-10-minute misconduct), 11:03; Fonteyne, Everett (fighting), 11:03; Wardley, Seattle (10-minute misconduct), 18:37; Laurencelle, Everett (checking to the head), 18:37; Leedahl, Everett (10-minute misconduct), 18:37.
Shots on goal—Seattle 4-10-4—18. Everett 11-11-12—34. Power-play opportunities—Seattle 0 of 4. Everett 2 of 6.
Goalies—Seattle, Kozun 3-1 (29 shots, 23 saves), Mumaugh (5 shots, 5 saves). Everett, Lotz 1-3 (18 shots, 17 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.