EVERETT — For eight consecutive postseason games the Seattle Thunderbirds had their way with the Everett Silvertips.
On Friday it was Everett’s chance to return the favor.
The top-seeded Tips knocked off the eighth-seeded T-birds 4-1 to take a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-seven WHL Western Conference playoff series before 4,247 fans at Angel of the Winds Arena.
“I think it was important to get off to a quick start and that was something we emphasized coming into tonight,” Everett winger Patrick Bajkov said. “I’m really proud of the way our locker room came out to start the game, and I think every period we came out with something to prove.”
The victory snapped an Everett eight-game postseason losing streak to the T-birds, who are the defending WHL champions and two-time defending conference champions.
Moreover, Friday’s game was far more lopsided than the 10-game regular-season series would indicate. Everett won six of the regular-season games, but eight of the 10 were decided by a single goal. Four of the last five regular-season matchups were determined in overtime or a shootout.
“I thought our intensity was good, I thought our execution was strong,” Everett head coach Dennis Williams said. “I thought we finished checks well. They played their style, we played our style (but) tomorrow is a whole different day.”
Bajkov scored twice while linemate Matt Fonteyne assisted on Everett’s first three goals. Garrett Pilon and Bryce Kindopp also scored for Everett.
Carter Hart saved 25 of the 26 Seattle shots for his first playoff victory over the T-birds since a 3-0 shutout win in Game 1 of the 2016 Western Conference semifinals at ShoWare Center.
Hart out-dueled Seattle goalie Liam Hughes who saved 42 of Everett’s 46 shots. The Tips held a substantial 46-26 shot advantage.
“They came hard,” Fonteyne said. “We knew what it was going to be like. It’s always a pretty hostile environment when we’re playing in the playoffs as well as playing Seattle. We just tried to keep it simple and play one shift at a time.”
Everett took a 1-0 lead into the second period, before breaking it open with three goals in the second. The Tips began the frame on the penalty kill as Sean Richards was issued a penalty at the end of the first.
It was no problem as a Seattle turnover in the Everett zone sprung the Tips for a shorthanded 3-on-2. Fonteyne fed Bajkov at the Seattle blue line, and Bajkov beat Hughes for a 2-0 lead from the slot at 1:47 in the second.
Bajkov added another goal at 5:59 when Fonteyne won the faceoff in the right circle and played the puck right to Bajkov, who rifled a shot from the high slot for a 3-0 lead.
Both of Bajkov’s goals came thanks to the Tips getting traffic in front of Hughes — a strong point of emphasis all season and particularly this week leading up to the series.
“I think that’s important against any goalie and any team to get some traffic to the net and look for those secondary chances, and even look for that first one to go in,” Bajkov said. “On my second (goal) Pilon did a great job to get over the goalie’s eyes and make sure he couldn’t see it.”
Seattle got one back at 7:03 when Zack Andrusiak tipped in Austin Strand’s point shot to make it 3-1.
But Kindopp restored the three-goal lead coming out of the media timeout when he won a puck battle behind the net, wrapped around the back of the net and flung the puck past Hughes before the Seattle goaltender was in position to make it 4-1.
“It kind of shows the kind of player (Kindopp) is,” Fonteyne said. “He doesn’t give up on plays and he’s got a ton of skill as well.”
That is how it remained until the final horn.
The Tips opened the scoring at 10:19 in the first period. Fonteyne took possession of a Seattle turnover in the neutral zone and fed a touch pass to Pilon who skated into the slot and roofed a wrister over Hughes’ left shoulder for a 1-0 lead.
Everett came up empty on four power-play chances while killing off both of Seattle’s man advantages.
The teams square off for Game 2 at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Angel of the Winds Arena. The series shifts to Kent for Game 3 on Tuesday.
Silvertips 4, Thunderbirds 1
Seattle 0 1 0 — 1
Everett 1 3 0 — 4
1st Period—1, Everett, Pilon 1 (Fonteyne, Wylie), 10:19. Penalties—Neuls Sea (hooking), 1:06; Williams Sea (cross checking), 12:05; Richards Evt (roughing), 20:00.
2nd Period—2, Everett, Bajkov 1 (Fonteyne), 1:47 (SH). 3, Everett, Bajkov 2 (Fonteyne), 5:59. 4, Seattle, Andrusiak 1 (Strand, Neuls), 7:03. 5, Everett, Kindopp 1 10:12. Penalties—Harsch Sea (interference), 8:01.
3rd Period—No Scoring. Penalties—Richards Evt (hooking), 1:48; Hamaliuk Sea (roughing), 13:14; Fairbrother Evt (roughing), 13:14; Moilanen Sea (roughing), 19:38.
Shots on Goal—Seattle 7-11-8-26. Everett 13-18-15-46.
Power Play Opportunities—Seattle 0 / 2; Everett 0 / 4.
Goalies—Seattle, Hughes (46 shots-42 saves). Everett, Hart (26 shots-25 saves).