EVERETT — Graham Millar got up angry and looking for a call.
It didn’t come.
What did, however, was a seam in the Seattle Thunderbirds defense. Millar leaked in behind, collected the bouncing puck and flicked a backhander past Seattle goaltender Landon Bow for the game-winning goal at 18:10 in the third period as the Everett Silvertips defeated the Thunderbirds 2-1 before a sellout crowd of 8,352 fans Saturday at Xfinity Arena.
“I was just kind of getting back up and going back to the net, and the puck just found my stick,” Millar said. “I just threw it on net and it went in.”
Millar’s game-winner capped an emotional and physical third period that saw the U.S. Division-leading Tips (29-15-2-2, 62 points) beat second-place Seattle (26-18-3-0, 55 points) for the fourth time in five tries this season.
Goaltender Carter Hart recorded 34 saves on 35 chances as he continued his mastery over the Thunderbirds. He was particularly stellar during a five-minute Seattle power play midway through the third period.
“I don’t if it’s more so our D corps,” Hart said. “Before the game we always stress that they’re a hard-hitting team and that we need to amp up our style and amp up our game. We did that tonight and it showed.”
The Tips managed to kill off that penalty and Millar’s 12th goal of the season was enough to end Everett’s three-game losing streak — its longest of the season.
Everett’s Brandon Ralph opened the scoring when he slapped a pass from Devon Skoleski past Bow from the slot to give the Tips a 1-0 lead 2:50 into the game.
Ryan Gropp tied it 1-1 for the T-Birds with his wrister from the slot with an assist from Jerret Smith at 15:00 for the power play tally.
Hart stopped all dozen shots he faced in the second period including a short-handed two-on-one situation at the end of a Tips power play as the teams remained tied through 40 minutes.
The intensity that had percolated beneath the surface for two-and-a-half periods boiled over midway through the third.
It began when Everett assistant captain Remi Laurencelle checked Smith hard into the boards. Smith’s teammates Mathew Barzal and Jared Hauf took exception and fists briefly flew before the referees broke up the fracas. Laurencelle was assessed a two-minute roughing penalty, a five-minute checking form behind penalty and a 10-minute game misconduct penalty that ended his evening.
The Silvertips killed the ensuing five-minute penalty, but less than a minute later Everett’s Dawson Leedahl checked Turner Ottenbreit hard into the boards, and fought Seattle’s Ethan Bear. Leedahl got five minutes for fighting while Bear met the same fate as Laurencelle.
Everett didn’t score on its power play, but Millar was there a minute later for the game-winner.
“The fans were screaming and yelling and it felt really good,” Millar said. “I just got the puck out front and found a way.”
Bow finished with 21 saves in a losing effort for Seattle. The T-Birds boast the top penalty-killing unit in the league and held Everett scoreless on all six of its chances.
The Silvertips complete their three-game weekend today at 4 against the Spokane Chiefs at Xfinity Arena.
For the latest Silvertips news follow Jesse Geleynse on Twitter @jessegeleynse.
Silvertips 2, Thunderbirds 1
1st Period—1, Everett, Ralph 5 (Skoleski, Skrumeda), 2:50. 2, Seattle, Gropp 23 (Smith, Barzal), 15:00 (PP). Penalties—served by Gropp Sea (unsportsmanlike cnd.), 4:42; Ottenbreit Sea (checking from behind), 9:05; Martin Evt (boarding), 13:19.
2nd Period—No Scoring.Penalties—Holowko Sea (hooking), 7:31; Eansor Sea (interference), 12:11; Leedahl Evt (interference), 13:04.
3rd Period—3, Everett, Millar 12 (Juulsen), 18:10. Penalties—Gropp Sea (high sticking), 3:03; Barzal Sea (roughing), 10:13; Laurencelle Evt (roughing, major-check/behind, game misconduct), 10:13; Bear Sea (instigator, major-fighting, game misconduct), 15:30; Leedahl Evt (major-fighting), 15:30.
Shots on Goal—Seattle 12-12-11-35. Everett 7-10-6-23.
Power Play Opportunities-Seattle 1/3; Everett 0/6.
Goalies—Seattle, Bow 15-18-4-0 (23 shots-21 saves). Everett, Hart 28-14-1-2 (35 shots-34 saves).