By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — First blood to Everett.
In the first of a string of head-to-head contests that could have major playoff implications, the Everett Silvertips came from behind to defeat the Spokane Chiefs 4-3 in a shootout Sunday night at Comcast Arena.
Scott MacDonald and Ryan Murray scored in the final 10 minutes of regulation as Everett dug out of a 3-1 deficit to force overtime. MacDonald then scored the winner in the shootout as the Tips prevailed 2-1.
“I think it was our desperation,” MacDonald said about the key to Everett’s comeback. “We came into it treating it like a playoff game because we play these guys a bunch of times coming up here. Our mentality going into the third was we just wanted it so badly.”
Sunday’s game was the first of eight between Everett and Spokane over the Tips’ final 29 games of the season. The shootout victory, which gave Everett two points and Spokane one, pushed the Tips one point ahead of the Chiefs for fourth place in the Western Conference and one point behind third-place Portland. Spokane has played one fewer game than Everett and Portland.
If Sunday’s contest was an indication, it should be a tight race to the wire between Everett and Spokane.
“Every game is going to be a tight, tough battle,” Everett coach Craig Hartsburg said. “They’re a really good hockey team, obviously well coached, and they have some real top-end players. They don’t need a lot of scoring chances, they make something happen pretty quick. It’s going to be a lot of real good hockey games ahead.”
Byron Froese also scored in regulation for Everett (25-16-2-1), which pushed its winning streak to six. Thomas Heemskerk earned the win in goal for the Tips with 33 saves.
Kyle Beach, Steve Kuhn and Mitch Wahl scored for Spokane (24-15-3-1). James Reid stopped 35 shots in goal for the Chiefs.
The Tips also continued their mastery in shootouts, improving to 6-1 this season. However, it didn’t look like it was going to hold up. With the scored tied 1-1 after five shooters Beach stepped into the circle with a chance to win it for Spokane. The former Silvertip star beat Heemskerk with his shot, but it came back off the post to keep the game alive. MacDonald scored over Reid’s glove in the fourth round to put Everett ahead, then Levko Koper hit the crossbar to end it.
“We’ve been in a bit of a slump here,” Beach said. “We get up two goals going into the third period and can’t protect it, that’s the way things have happened lately. It’s partly my fault, I guess. I had a glorious chance in the shootout, had about a foot to shoot at and just didn’t hit my spot.”
Everett, after a mistake-filled second period that saw Spokane score all three of its goals following Tips miscues, went into the final 10 minutes of the game trailing 3-1. However, the Tips threw themselves a lifeline by scoring on the power play with 9 minutes, 3 seconds remaining. Tyler Maxwell carried the puck into the zone and under pressure put it off the end boards. The puck came straight back, where MacDonald had a free shot and snapped it past Reid to make it a one-goal game.
The Tips then tied it with 2:05 remaining on a remarkable sequence. First, Heemskerk made an amazing blind skate save on Koper on a two-on-one feed from Tyler Johnson. Everett took the puck the other way and established possession in the Spokane zone. The puck was worked to Murray at the left point, he made a nice move around a marker to get into the slot, then fired a shot into the top corner to tie it.
“(Heemskerk’s save) was the play of the game for us,” Hartsburg said. “It’s a two-on-oh and if they score the game’s over. It’s obviously a huge save. As soon as it was made the whole bench said that’s what we needed, and we went down and scored. That’s momentum in junior hockey, you just need something to spark you and that was it.”
Everett had some early scoring chances before taking the lead 4:17 into the game. Froese wound up and fired a slap shot just as he crossed the blue line. Reid got a piece of his glove on it, but couldn’t keep it out as the Tips took a 1-0 lead.
The Tips began making mistakes in the second period, however, and the Chiefs took full advantage. Spokane tied it at 1:58 when Wahl released Beach in free, and Beach fired past Heemskerk. The Chiefs took the lead while short-handed at 7:22, an error of judgment by Murray giving Spokane a two-on-one and Kuhn sneaking a shot under Heemskerk. The Chiefs made it 3-1 at 15:55, forcing a turnover in the neutral zone to create a three-on-two, then Beach’s fake shot and pass setting up Wahl for a simple redirect.
Silvertips 4, Chiefs 3 (SO)
First Period—1, Everett, Froese 14 (Maxwell, Rissanen), 4:17. Penalties—Ulmer, Spokane (slashing), 11:51; Langkow, Everett (slashing), 14:14; Koper, Spokane (high sticking), 15:08; Uher, Spokane (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:34; Kulchar, Everett (roughing), 19:34.
Second Period—2, Spokane, Beach 28 (Wahl), 1:58. 3, Spokane, Kuhn 7 (Spurgeon), 7:22 (sh). 4, Spokane, Wahl 17 (Beach, Koper), 15:55. Penalties—Uher, Spokane (interference), 4:06; Cowen, Spokane (tripping), 6:34; Kulchar, Everett (elbowing), 8:48.
Third Period—5, Everett, MacDonald 2 (Maxwell, Theriau), 10:57 (pp). 6, Everett, Murray 2 (Tochkin, Maxwell), 17:55. Penalties—Ulmer, Spokane (hooking), 9:29; McCrea, Everett (roughing), 17:55.
Overtime—no goals. Penalties—Beach, Spokane (boarding), 4:45.
Shootout—Everett 2 (Maxwell G, Froese NG, Harper NG, MacDonald G), Spokane 1 (Spurgeon NG, Wahl G, Beach NG, Koper NG).
Shots on goal—Spokane 8-14-12-2—36. Everett 15-9-11-3—38. Power-play opportunities—Spokane 0 of 3. Everett 1 of 6.
Goalies—Spokane, Reid 19-10-3-0 (38 shots, 35 saves). Everett, Heemskerk 13-8-1-1 (36 shots, 33 saves).
Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog: http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog