EVERETT — When Ivan Nikolishin’s one-timer snapped the twine in overtime, there was a roar from the Comcast Arena crowd and a palpable bellow of relief from the Everett Silvertips.
In more ways than one, the Tips ended a long string of futility.
Everett rediscovered its winning ways Saturday night, defeating the Spokane Chiefs 5-4 in overtime to end a painful six-game losing streak.
“It was just a sigh of relief,” Everett center Kohl Bauml said about his reaction to Nikolishin’s game-winning goal. Bauml scored once himself and had two assists.
“It was a hard-fought battle by our team. We’ve been close in a lot of games lately, but just haven’t been able to find the combination or bounces. Just to see that hit the back of the net is a big sense of relief and a good step in the right direction for our team.”
There were so many reasons to write the Tips off prior to the game. Everett not only had lost six straight, the Tips also were winless in six contests against Spokane this season — and the Chiefs had Eric Williams, who had owned Everett this season, starting in goal.
In addition, the Tips were banged up beyond recognition. Everett already was missing forwards Manraj Hayer (lower body), Zane Jones (upper body), Logan Aasman (finger) and Tyler Sandhu (upper body) because of injury. Then two more names were added to the list Saturday as center Jujhar Khaira (upper body) and defenseman Ben Betker (undisclosed) were also unable to go. As a result, Everett played two skaters short.
But the Tips (26-19-7-1) turned those circumstances upside down. Nikolishin, Patrick Bajkov, and Joshua Winquist joined Bauml in scoring during the game’s first 29 minutes as the Tips beat Williams four times, chasing him from the game. Williams allowed a total of eight goals in the previous six meetings between the teams. Everett also managed to win despite an off night from its own goaltenders. Austin Lotz and Daniel Cotton combined to allow four goals on just 18 shots.
“We’d been beaten up by Portland (three one-sided losses the previous eight days), lost to our rival (Seattle, 2-1 at home Friday), and that starts to beat on your confidence a little bit,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “So tonight was good. It’s good for the guys to feel what a win feels like, which hasn’t happened a lot lately, and remind themselves that they’re good players and good things can happen when you keep working.”
Colton Bobyk scored twice to lead Spokane (31-16-3-2), which was dealing with issues of its own. The Chiefs were without key overage center Mike Aviani, who was serving the third game of a three-game suspension handed down by the league for his checking-to-the-head major penalty Tuesday at Kamloops. Spokane also was finishing off a brutal road trip that saw the Chiefs play four road games in five nights.
Markson Bechtold and Mitch Holmberg scored the other goals for the Chiefs. Williams and Garret Hughson combined to make 25 saves.
Despite the circumstances, Everett found itself leading 4-3 in the third period. However Holmberg, the league’s leading scorer, only needed a glimpse of daylight to fire a shot past Cotton from the top of the right circle after entering the offensive zone at 8 minutes, 34 seconds of the third, tying the score. Then Everett’s Brayden Low took a tripping penalty in the offensive zone with 8 seconds remaining in regulation, giving the Chiefs a long four-on-three power play to begin overtime.
The same circumstance occurred in Everett’s game at Seattle last Saturday. In that game, the Tips came seconds away from killing the penalty, only to give up the game-winner and lose 4-3. But this time Everett’s penalty killers put on a valiant display to prevent the Chiefs from scoring.
Then moments later the Tips received a power play of their own thanks to Adam Helewka’s high-sticking penalty. The Chiefs killed off three-quarters of it, but Winquist was able to set up Nikolishin in the right circle, and Nikolishin ripped his one-timer past Hughson to end Everett’s agony.
“We knew coming into the game we’d be short-handed,” Bauml said. “We have a lot of injuries plaguing guys right now, which is unfortunate. But that just kind of rallied all the guys and everyone stuck together. It was short benches, short shifts and lots of energy. It was good to see.”
Spokane opened the scoring 7:08 into the game on an innocuous-looking play. Bobyk skated the puck into the offensive zone along the left boards and flipped a centering pass toward goal. The puck banked off Lotz and into the goal, giving the Chiefs a 1-0 lead.
Everett countered in transition at 14:26 as Bajkov dragged his way past a defender, who was picked off by his own backchecking teammate, then wristed a shot from the slot into the top corner, tying it at 1-1.
The Chiefs regained the lead just 22 seconds later as Bechtold got a shot through Lotz straight from a faceoff win to make it 2-1.
But the Tips quickly tied it again in transition, a neat give-and-go between Low and Matt Fonteyne creating a rebound for Nikolishin to put away and make it 2-2 at 15:56.
Cotton came on for Lotz to start the second period, and the Chiefs scored on their first shot on goal against him as, on the power play, Bobyk’s one-timer from the top of the left circle beat Cotton clean at 2:35. The Tips argued that Cotton’s mask was knocked off before the goal was scored, but the goal stood to make it 3-2.
But Everett responded, scoring twice to chase Williams from the game. Winquist beat Williams with a shot in transition at 4:44 to tie it up, then Bauml poked home a loose puck after Dawson Leedahl wrapped it around front on the power play at 8:40, giving the Tips a 4-3 lead.
Silvertips 5, Chiefs (OT)
Spokane 2 1 0 0 — 4
Everett 2 2 0 1 — 5
First Period—1, Spokane, Bobyk 3 (Holmberg), 7:08. 2, Everett, Bajkov 6 (Bauml, Winquist), 14:26. 3, Spokane, Bechtold 2 (Proft), 14:48. 4, Everett, Nikolishin 12 (Low, Fonteyne), 15:56. Penalties—Helewka, Spokane (tripping), 17:19; Leedahl, Everett (tripping), 17:25.
Second Period—5, Spokane, Bobyk 4 (Wedman, Proft), 2:35 (pp). 6, Everett, Winquist 33 (Bauml, Bajkov), 4:44. 7, Everett, Bauml 12 (Leedahl, Pufahl), 8:40 (pp). Penalties—Nikolishin, Everett (hooking), 2:21; Bobyk, Spokane (tripping-fighting), 2:46; DeRoose, Everett (instigator-fighting-10-minute misconduct), 2:46; Proft, Spokane (holding), 5:17; Chartier, Spokane (hooking), 8:19; Pufahl, Everett (high sticking-high sticking), 10:42: Proft, Spokane (tripping), 14:00; Wedman, Spokane (interference), 20:00.
Third Period—8, Spokane, Holmberg 47, 8:34. Penalties—Low, Everett (tripping), 19:52.
Overtime—9, Everett, Nikolishin 13 (Winquist, Pufahl), 4:24 (pp). Penalties—Helewka, Spokane (high sticking), 2:58.
Shots on goal—Spokane 5-7-4-2—18. Everett 12-6-10-2—30. Power-play opportunities—Spokane 1 of 5. Everett 2 of 6.
Goalies—Spokane, Williams (15 shots, 11 saves), Hughson 5-5-1-1 (15 shots, 14 saves). Everett, Lotz (5 shots, 3 saves), Cotton 8-3-4-0 (13 shots, 11 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.