By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
KENT — Everett Silvertips coach Kevin Constantine has always stressed the importance of starting a game well.
Saturday night the Tips didn’t, and as a result they find themselves in a hole in their first-round playoff series.
The Seattle Thunderbirds scored twice during the first 12 minutes, and that proved enough as they held off Everett 2-1 in Game 1 at ShoWare Center.
Everett took three penalties in the first 10 minutes of the game, and Seattle cashed in twice to take a 2-0 lead. The Tips roared back after the first, outshooting the T-birds 26-10 the rest of the way. But a five-on-three goal was all Everett could produce.
“The start’s always really critical,” Constantine said. “They just started way better than us. They drew the first couple penalties and scored on their power play. We played well as the game went on, but I’d take a good start and a bad finish over a bad start and a good finish, because the starts are so important. We just have to be a little better at the start.”
Russell Maxwell and Shea Theodore scored the goals for fourth-seeded Seattle, which took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, the first ever between the I-5 rivals.
“It was a good start,” Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “Any time you can get off to a lead like that, capitalize on the power plays against a team that starts really well — our guys did good. They were ready too play in the first.”
Taran Kozun gave the T-birds exactly what they were looking for when they acquired him from Kamloops at the trade deadline. The veteran netminder played a solid game in goal, making 38 saves. He did the bulk of his work during the second period, when the Tips outshot Seattle 19-4.
“I thought he was pretty good,” Constantine said of Kozun. “It’s playoff hockey, it’s work and compete and goaltending and special teams. It’s all an important part of it.”
Patrick Bajkov scored the lone goal for fifth-seeded Everett, which lost in regulation for the first time in more than a month. Austin Lotz finished with 22 saves.
Game 2 is this afternoon in Everett.
The series between Everett and Seattle, the first since the Tips entered the league in 2003, was expected to be a dogfight, given how close the teams were during the regular season. The teams finished tied in the standings with 88 points and they split the season series 5-5, with six of the contests decided by one goal. Therefore, the nature of Saturday’s game suggests it will be more of the same during the postseason.
The Tips came into the game on a roll, having finished the regular season 11-0-0-2. However, they got themselves into trouble early Saturday. Less than a minute into the game, Everett’s Manraj Hayer was whistled for a boarding penalty, and the T-birds converted at 2:27 as Maxwell put away the second rebound to stake Seattle to an immediate 1-0 lead.
Then a pair of goaltender-contact incidents conspired for Seattle’s second goal at 11:44. Everett’s Jujhar Khaira was assessed a goaltender interference penalty that left Constantine livid. The T-birds then scored when Theodore’s slap shot from the point through traffic beat Lotz. Lotz argued vociferously that he was interfered with, but to no avail and the score remained 2-0.
Everett received the favor of the calls in the second period, and the Tips cashed in during a five-on-three at 2:43, Joshua Winquist faking a shot and feeding Bajkov for a one-timer that made it 2-1. Everett continued to pour shots on Kozun, outshooting Seattle 19-4 in the period, but the Tips couldn’t find the net again as it remained 2-1 going into the third.
“They generated quite a bit on their power play,” Konowalchuk said. “Kozun was big for us, our penalty kill was big for us to get us through that. That’s where they generated a lot of their momentum today. We have to stay out of the box.”
Then in the third period the T-birds gave Everett very little room to maneuver and successfully salted the game away.
“It’s always a little easier to play with a lead because you don’t have to extend yourself too far in the offensive zone and get yourself trapped in the offensive zone,” Constantine said. “They had a textbook third period with a lead. They gave up some chances, but not a lot. They did a good job.”
Everett had the services of both Lotz and center Jujhar Khaira on Saturday. Neither player finished the season finale last Sunday in Portland, and the Tips decline to comment on their statuses going into the playoffs. … Everett was without winger Tyler Sandhu for undisclosed reasons. Sandhu sat out last Sunday’s game. Tips center Kohl Bauml, who’s been out because of a fractured leg, is not on the roster for the series. … Seattle winger Connor Honey, who missed most of the season because of an upper-body ailment, is not on the T-birds roster for the series. … A light moment occurred in the third period when Seattle’s Justin Hickman got his hand stuck between two panels of glass and was unable to free himself, requiring a whistle. Hickman was eventually able to free himself without injury, and the stoppage ended a stretch of about 10 minutes without a whistle.
Thunderbirds 2, Silvertips 1
Everett 0 1 0 — 1
Seattle 2 0 0 — 2
First Period—1, Seattle, Maxwell 1 (Yakubowski, Lipsbergs), 2:27 (pp). 2, Seattle, Theodore 1 (Troock, Barzal), 11:44 (pp). Penalties—Hayer, Everett (boarding), 0:57; Hickman, Seattle (boarding), 5:36; Leedahl, Everett (slashing), 6:15; Khaira, Everett (goaltender interference), 9:56; Hickman, Seattle (goaltender interference), 19:27.
Second Period—3, Everett, Bajkov 1 (Winquist, Nikolishin), 2:43 (pp). Penalties—Theodore, Seattle (roughing), 1:23; Maxwell, Seattle (tripping), 2:09; Wardley, Seattle (charging), 4:28.
Third Period—no goals. Penalties—Wardley, Seattle (kneeing), 4:46; MacDonald, Everett (tripping), 15:47.
Shots on goal—Everett 13-19-7—39. Seattle 12-4-6—22. Power-play opportunities—Everett 1 of 6. Seattle 2 of 4.
Goalies—Everett, Lotz 0-1 (22 shots, 20 saves). Seattle, Kozun 1-0 (39 shots, 38 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.