KENT — The game had a playoff feel and not only because the calendar has turned to March.
The Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds have battled the past two seasons for U.S. Division supremacy and the T-birds gutted out a 3-2 come-from-behind victory Friday before 5,204 fans at ShoWare Center.
With the win Seattle (43-19-4-1, 92 points) moves back into first place in the division and conference. However, Everett (40-15-8-3, 91 points) still has two games in hand.
“I think everyone knew it was a pretty important game,” Everett forward Matt Fonteyne said. “It was a hard-fought battle. I thought it was a playoff game, a playoff-type atmosphere so we can’t dwell on this one too much. Yeah it stings but we still have six games left.”
Ethan Bear broke a 2-2 deadlock at 17:45 in the third with a rocket through traffic from the point that beat Carter Hart.
The late goal from Bear was reminiscent of the pair of third-period power-play goals Bear tallied in Seattle’s 3-2 win over the Tips back on Jan. 28.
“He’s a good shooter,” Fonteyne said. “Whenever he gets that kind of space up top he’s got a good shot at scoring. He’s got an NHL-caliber shot so I think we just need to try and limit his time or block him.”
The Thunderbirds played without star center and captain Mathew Barzal. The New York Islanders prospect skated during warmups, but ducked off the ice during the National Anthem and exited through the tunnel. He did not return as Alexander True replaced him as Seattle’s first-line center. After the game Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk told the media Barzal was sick.
“It doesn’t change our approach, but he’s a helluva player,” Everett head coach Kevin Constantine said. “I think he’s the most dynamic offensive player in the league. He’s a big part of their team. It doesn’t change our strategy, but he’s a big part of their team.”
Everett lost all five games at ShoWare Center this season though three of the defeats came by a single goal. This time, however, the Tips scored first when Sean Richards crashed at the left post and buried a rebound of Riley Sutter’s point shot to make it 1-0 at 1:38 in the second.
“We haven’t been a good starting team here and I thought we worked hard in the first,” Constantine said. “I didn’t think we had a good start to the second period. I know we scored, but if you look at the first 10 shifts they were better than us at the start. But we did get off to a better start in the first period than has been the norm in this building.”
The Thunderbirds quickly countered when Turner Ottenbreit waited out an Everett defender and fired a wrister over Hart’s left shoulder at 2:26. Seattle then moved ahead shorthanded when Ryan Gropp brought the puck into the Everett zone and found a trailing True who beat Hart at 4:18 to a 2-1 lead.
“That was an important turning point for them,” Constantine said. “You gotta score on your power play, not give up goals, so that wasn’t good.”
Everett had a great opportunity to tie the game when Richards was hauled down on a breakaway by Austin Strand and awarded a penalty shot. But Richards pushed his attempt wide.
The Tips eventually drew even at 19:11 when T-birds goalie Rylan Toth misplayed a Connor Dewar shot into his own net to knot the game 2-2. That’s how the second period ended.
The Tips held a 9-7 shot advantage through the scoreless opening period. Everett came up empty on the period’s lone power play despite several quality looks.
Hart finished with 19 saves on 22 shots. Toth saved 21 of 23.
The Tips play again at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Tri-City.
Thunderbirds 3, Silvertips 2
Everett 0 2 0 — 2
Seattle 0 2 1 — 3
1st Period—No Scoring. Penalties—Bishop Sea (holding), 15:59.
2nd Period—1, Everett, Richards 7 (Sutter, Skrumeda), 1:38. 2, Seattle, Ottenbreit 7 (Neuls, Moilanen), 2:26. 3, Seattle, True 22 (Gropp), 4:18 (SH). 4, Everett, Dewar 13 (Kindopp, Juulsen), 19:11. Penalties—Wedman Sea (charging), 4:03; Onyebuchi Evt (charging), 10:24; Tuulola Evt (embellishment), 13:14; Strand Sea (hooking), 13:14.
3rd Period—5, Seattle, Bear 27 (Neuls), 7:45. Penalties—Adams Sea (inter. on goaltender), 4:45; Bajkov Evt (tripping), 18:19; Kolesar Sea (slashing), 18:35.
Shots on Goal—Everett 9-4-10-23. Seattle 7-10-5-22.
Power Play Opportunities—Everett 0 / 3; Seattle 0 / 2.
Goalies—Everett, Hart 29-10-6-2 (22 shots-19 saves). Seattle, Toth 36-18-2-1 (23 shots-21 saves).
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