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T-Birds beat Tri-City 4-3 for first regulation win since January 19

KENT — It didn’t come without some drama, but Seattle was able to escape with a 4-3 win against the Tri-City Americans at the accesso ShoWare Center on Tuesday night.

The victory was the T-Birds’ first regulation win since January 19 when they beat the Kelowna Rockets 7-2.

Seattle had a 4-0 lead early in the third period but two quick power play goals gave the Americans the momentum they needed to make the game close. They were able to cut the lead to one late in the third but Seattle was able to hold off a late onslaught to get the win without going into extra time.

The victory cuts Seattle’s magic number to two for a guaranteed spot in the playoffs and moves them within one point of Tri-City for seventh place in the Western Conference.

The T-Birds jumped out to a 1-0 lead 5:19 into the first period on Austin Strand’s 21st goal of the season. His defensive partner, Jarret Tyszka, led a rush into the offensive zone, getting a shot off and grabbing his own rebound. He turned around to find Strand at the right point, where the 20-year-old defenseman was able to fire a wrist shot through traffic to beat Tri-City goalie Patrick Dea. Nolan Volcan had the second assist on the goal.

Strand’s goal was the only one the first period would see. The Americans outshot Seattle 12-10 through 20 minutes.

Seattle jumped out to a 2-0 lead 4:31 into the second period on Zack Andrusiak’s 31st goal of the season and seventh in the last five games. The shorthanded Americans made a breakout pass that hit Noah Philp’s skate at the Tri-City blue line. Andrusiak jumped on the loose puck, approaching Dea all alone. He stood in front of the Americans goalie with plenty of time and made a forehand-to-backhand move before elevating the puck over the sprawled-out netminder. The assist extended Philp’s point streak to seven games.

Volcan increased Seatte’s lead to 3-0 with a power-play goal of his own at 9:15 of the second period after a slashing penalty was assessed to Tri-City’s Nolan Yaremko. With Turner Ottenbreit jumping into the rush, Matthew Wedman carried the puck up the right wing and across the Americans’ blue line. Ottenbreit, to Wedman’s left, cut in front of Dea, drawing one of the Tri-City defensemen with him and opening up space for the trailing Volcan, who Wedman was able to find with a pass. Volcan’s wrist shot was initially stopped by Dea, but knocked into the net by Americans forward Maxwell James, who was attempting to get back into the play.

A busy second period concluded with the T-Birds up three goals on the scoreboard and leading 27-22 on the shot clock.

Seattle made it 4-0 just 60 seconds into the third period when Wedman deflected a Turner Ottenbreit point shot over Dea’s blocker. Reece Harsch had the second assist.

The Americans ended Liam Hughes’ shutout bid 5:25 into the third period as Morgan Geekie scored a power play goal to make it 4-1. Just before the goal, Geekie had drawn a slashing penalty on Ottenbreit. As Tri-City scored on the delayed call, they remained on the power play.

On the ensuing advantage, the Americans were able to beat Hughes once more to cut the lead to 4-2. Just 54 seconds after their first goal, Rasmussen was able to beat Hughes for his 25th goal of the season.

“The first 40 minutes were good but you can’t start off the third taking a couple of penalties,” said T-Birds head coach Matt O’Dette. “They have a good power play and we gave them life by going to the box. The penalties got the momentum back in their favor and they started to come at us. I think these third periods are in our head a little bit. We start gripping our sticks a little too tightly.”

Tri-City cut the deficit to just one goal as Sasha Mutala jammed a loose puck past Hughes with 4:29 left in the third. The goal was Mutala’s ninth of the season.

The Americans pulled Dea with about a minute and a half left in the third and were able to keep the puck in the T-Birds zone for nearly the entirety of the final 90 seconds. If not for a few timely blocked shots and some big saves from Hughes, the game would’ve been decided once again in extra time.

“Being able to win games against these kinds of teams is a big confidence booster,” said O’Dette of the team’s mindset as the regular season nears its end. “We’ve beaten Everett and Portland recently and now Tri-City. Those are really good teams. Of course we’d like to win them more comfortably but we know every game is going to be difficult. We’re trying to keep putting points in the bank and control it ourselves so we can come into the playoffs through the front door.”

With Seattle’s magic number down to two, they can earn themselves at least the eighth playoff seed in the Western Conference with a victory on Friday night at home against Spokane.

“We are watching our magic number if I’m being honest,” said O’Dette after the game. “We’d like to (make the playoffs) through our own results by winning our games and securing our spot. We don’t want to have to watch what other teams are doing.”