KENT – The Seattle Thunderbirds pulled off some overtime magic on Tuesday night and it came off the stick of their best player.
Mathew Barzal scored just 1:30 into overtime to send the Thunderbirds to an exciting 5-4 win over the Everett Silvertips to take a strangle hold on their second-round, best-of-seven series. It was Barzal’s second marker of the evening as he also tied the game up early in the third period.
The game-winner started with Ryan Gropp – who was back after missing four games – circling at the top of the Everett zone. He fired a shot that hit traffic in front and Barzal was there to knock it home for his first career playoff, overtime winner.
“I just saw Gropper out there and I know he’s a shooter so he was walking around out there and (Keegan Kolesar) in front,” Barzal said of the goal. “I think it hit (Kolesar) in the ass or something. He was a rock in front of the net, just going to the net, have to get pucks to the net.”
Seattle saw a 3-0 lead evaporate in the second period when Everett scored four unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead. It would be Barzal who got the game even again in the third period when he scored from the faceoff circle.
The Thunderbirds were without Barzal for the last couple of weeks of the season and the entire first round of the playoffs. He’s back now and coming up big for Seattle.
“He likes the puck on his stick in big games,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “We’ve seen it at every level he goes to. I remember when he was 16 and he scored a big playoff goal. He wants to be out there for those moments and he’s good enough to make something happen.”
Seattle looked to be in the driver’s seat after jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the second period. They took their foot off the gas and the Silvertips took advantage to score four times.
“We quit skating,” Konowalchuk said of the second period. “With the puck and without it. We were starting to get some glide in our game whether it was back checking or going to pucks and that just can’t happen.”
Seattle built its early lead behind some strong play.
For the third straight time the Thunderbirds opened the scoring. The play started when Barzal floated a perfect pass up ice to the stick of Kolesar. The big winger moved in on Everett goalie Carter Hart and was stopped initially. He followed up as he passed the net and flung the puck back and off Hart into the net. It would be Kolesar’s fourth goal of the post season.
Seattle pounced on Everett to start the second period. An Ethan Bear point shot was stopped by Hart but the rebound banged around in the crease where both Sami Moilanen and Nolan Volcan took swipes at it. Volcan would get it for his third of the playoffs.
Alexander True would extend the lead a couple of minutes later when he beat Hart with wrist shot from the high slot.
That’s when things changed, starting with Everett getting on the board with a strange play.
Dominic Zwerger had a break and fought off Barzal, who was being called for a penalty. The puck went to Aaron Irving in the corner and he flung the puck at the Seattle net, where Carl Stankowski had been knocked over by Barzal, and in to cut the lead to 3-1.
The Silvertips would gain some momentum from that goal and get to within one when Eetu Tuulola was parked in front of the net during an Everett power play and scored on a rebound.
That goal would be the first power-play goal allowed by Seattle in the series and only the second in the playoffs.
Everett would cash in on another second period power play to tie the game with just over six minutes left in the period. It would be Zwerger who would score, this time from the point with a slap shot.
The floodgates continued in the second period a minute later when Tuulola would score again after turning and firing a shot from the half boards. It would be the fourth unanswered goal scored in the period by the Silvertips.
Konowalchuk called timeout at that point to calm his troops down.
“We’re feeling pretty good up 3-0 and then they come back and storm back,” Barzal said. “Credit to them, these guys don’t quit, a lot of hard working guys. We didn’t get too down, it’s still a one-goal game.”
Seattle would come out steaming in the third period.
They dominated the puck possession and limited Everett to just three shots. Key among that was the line of Volcan, Scott Eansor and Moilanen, who were strong again. They limited Everett’s top line and were pests all night.
Barzal would cash in on that momentum, again with a screen from Kolesar in front of Hart.
“Keegs is a pretty big body and he’s in front there, just doing his thing,” Barzal said. “Kind of saw him boxing his guy out and at that point from that high up, you’re just trying to get one on net.”
The Thunderbirds are now on the brink of getting back to the Western Conference Finals for the second straight year. There’s an old saying in hockey that the fourth win in a playoff series is the toughest, and that is what Seattle’s task is now.
“It gets harder every single game,” Konowalchuk said. “We’ve got to put this behind us, it’s an overtime game and we really have to focus on putting the emotions behind us as soon as we walk out that door. It’s still just one win and we still need one more.”
Game 4 is on Friday at the ShoWare Center with a 7:30 faceoff.
• Everett ended up 2-for-3 on the power play, all in the second period. Seattle had only given up one power-play goal in the previous six playoff games.
• Gropp made his return to the lineup after missing four games. He skated mostly on the third line but at times, including for the game-winner, was moved up to play with Barzal and Kolesar. He ended up getting the assist on Barzal’s overtime goal.
• Stankowski won his seventh straight playoff game by making 14 saves.
• Seattle is now 11-2 all time against Everett in the post season.