EVERETT – The Everett Silvertips sure hope Saturday night wasn’t a preview of their impending first-round playoff series.
Matched up with its first-round opponent, Everett was thoroughly outplayed by Portland and the Silvertips fell meekly to the Winter Hawks 2-0 in a Western Hockey League game.
Before an Everett Events Center crowd of 7,980, Dan DaSilva broke a scoreless tie late in the third period for Portland, which served notice that Everett has its work cut out for it when the teams open the playoffs on Mar. 25.
“I thought they deserved to win,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “I thought they competed a little harder than us.
“Maybe winning two big games (6-2 at Spokane on Wednesday, 5-1 at home against Seattle on Friday), we kind of backed off a little bit,” Constantine added. “When things are going good, you forget how hard it is to be good sometimes.”
The Silvertips (31-26-8-2) were unexpectedly sluggish, considering the magnitude of Saturday’s game. The teams are still battling for home-ice advantage in the playoffs, and with a victory Everett would have given itself a commanding four-point lead over Portland with four games remaining.
Instead, Portland (31-26-5-5) pulled into a tie for second in the U.S. Division with Everett. The teams square off again tonight in Portland.
“It was an important game, but it’s not the end of the world,” said Everett goaltender Michael Wall, who was Everett’s lone bright spot. “We still have a lot of games left.
“Maybe we just went in there a little bit too relaxed,” Wall added. “We need to grip the stick a little tighter and bear down.”
Portland controlled play throughout. The Winter Hawks outworked the Silvertips in the corners, created far more scoring chances, rendered Everett’s power-play helpless, and if not for the heroics of Wall the Silvertips would have suffered a hiding.
But Wall kept Everett in the game until, with 6 minutes, 1 second remaining, DaSilva lifted a shot behind Wall from a tight angle after Wall blocked Braydon Coburn’s shot from the point.
“When you head into the playoffs and know the team you’re going to play against, you want to go out there and get the two points,” said DaSilva, who now has 31 goals this season. “And we needed to know we can win in this building.
“I think it definitely was (a preview of the playoffs),” DaSilva added. “We knew the importance of the hockey game and we’re now tied with them in the standings.”
Kyle Bailey added a power-play goal with 2:15 remaining for Portland, making a move into a slot before putting a shot into the top corner for his 11th of the season, and Blake Grenier made 18 saves for his second shutout of the season.
Wall finished with 30 saves for Everett.
Everett’s struggles were highlighted by their ineptitude on the power play. The Tips, the seventh-best team in the league on the power play going into the game, went 0-for-9 with the advantage and rarely managed to even get set up in the Portland zone. The Tips couldn’t even take advantage of a 55-second span of five-on-three midway through the third period with the game still scoreless.
“I think their tenacity was better than our readiness,” Constantine said about the power play. “I thought our power-play guys were fairly casual and (the Winter Hawks) were really jumping. They have pretty big D with long sticks and they get to you. If you’re not ready they’ll get to you, and our guys weren’t ready.”
Portland found all sorts of holes in the Everett defense the first two periods, but couldn’t find a way past Wall. In the first period, Wall stopped DaSilva on a three-on-two break, Brian Woolger smacked the post with a slap shot from the circle and Brandon Dubinsky had what seemed to be a sure goal on an open rebound denied by a lunging Everett player’s stick.
Portland again forced the action in the second period, Wall saving from Dubinsky at point blank and coming up with a great double stop on DaSilva’s breakaway and Cody McLeod’s follow-up shot.
But Everett had its chances too. Grenier stopped Curtis Billsten from close range, and Brady Calla had open net on a rebound only to pull his shot into the side of the goal standard.
Slap shots: Because of Everett’s recent rash of injuries, the Tips fielded the same 20 players in back-to-back games for the first time in seven games. … With talented rookie defenseman Michael Sauer out for the season because of hip surgery and fellow defenseman Jordie Fike scratched because of a minor knee injury, Portland continues to use center Alex Aldred as a spare defenseman.
At the Everett Events Center
Third Period-1, Portland, DaSilva 31 (Coburn, Dubinsky), 13:59. 2, Portland, Bailey 11 (DaSilva), 17:45 (pp).
Shots on goal-Portland 8-16-8-32. Everett 4-9-5-18. Power-play opportunities-Portland 1 of 5. Everett 0 of 9.
Goalies-Portland, Grenier 13-10-1 (18 shots, 18 saves). Everett, Wall 22-21-7 (32 shots, 30 saves).