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WHL Playoffs: Patrick Bajkov hat trick paces Everett to win in Game 3 against Tri-City

Tri-City's Michael Rasmussen scored twice Monday but it wouldn't be enough as the Americans fell to the Everett Silvertips (Brian Liesse)

KENNEWICK – The Everett Silvertips had an answer for every Tri-City charge Monday night during Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.

Twice the Americans would fight back to erase a two-goal deficit and twice Everett would respond and pull back ahead. Patrick Bajkov completed his second post-season hat trick to pace the Silvertips who take a 2-1 lead in the series after an 8-4 victory at the Toyota Center.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Everett head coach Dennis Williams said of the win.

After the Americans scored two goals in the first two minutes of the third period to knot the game at four, Bajkov would score twice in the next two-and-a-half minutes to essentially put Tri-City away.

Bajkov had one goal in the series coming into Monday but his coach wanted more from the 20-year-old.

“I challenged him,” Williams said. “He wasn’t good for the first two games, I told him. Our expectations were higher…he came out today and played the way he should play. It wasn’t just that he scored, he was tracking pucks and finishing checks and that’s what we need from our best players.”

The first of his two third-period goals came after he stripped the puck at his own blue line and streaked down the ice by himself. He made a couple of dekes and stuffed the puck past goalie Patrick Dea. It was a goal that quieted down a fierce push the Americans had made to start the period.

“They were trying to make a play at the blue line,” Bajkov said. “I thought that if I could get an extra body around them and put a little pressure on them. Obviously, it worked out.”

He followed that up with a sharp shot from the slott to complete the hat trick. His first period breakaway goal had given Everett an early 2-0 lead as well as he now has 11 post-season markers.

Bajkov put the Silvertips up 6-4 with his third period goals and then the wheels fell off for Tri-City. Everett would score twice more on goals from Garret Pilon and Connor Dewar to put down any Tri-City comeback bid.

Everett would end up chasing Dea from the net after the eighth goal. Dea, who made 18 saves, wasn’t helped much from his teammates, who were forced into numerous turnovers that all seemed to lead to Silvertips’ chances.

“I thought we did a good job clogging up the neutral zone,” Williams said. “When we did it, we were able to turn pucks over and we transitioned quickly with it. We didn’t waste any time.”

As they have done all series, the Silvertips took the lead early on Monday night when Martin Fasko-Rudas beat Dea with a hot, top-shelf wrist shot at 2:36 of the first on Everett’s first shot of the game.

Everett added to its lead just under eight minutes later when Bajkov turned on the jets and beat defenseman Jake Bean down the ice. He walked in on the goal and stuffed his first of the night.

The Americans cut the lead at 15:55 of the first when they converted on a four-on-three power-play. It would be Michael Rasmussen’s third goal of the series when he tipped a point shot from Juuso Valamaki past Carter Hart.

Tri-City wasted little time getting the game even in the second period. On another power play, a turnover sent three Americans in the zone against one lone Silvertip. A couple of passes later and Valamaki would chip the puck past Hart for his second goal of the post season.

Everett would respond however.

Two minutes later, Sean Richards forced a turnover by stripping the puck deep in the Tri-City end. He then found Reece Vitelli streaking into the zone after making a line change. Vitelli took the pass and would score to give the Silvertips their lead back.

Ian Walker would step into a big slap shot from the point at 13:02 to reinstate Everett’s two-goal lead at 4-2 heading into the third period,

The Americans started to chip away at the two-goal deficit just 47 seconds into the third. Isaac Johnson banged home a rebound from right in front of the Everett net to pull the home team to within one goal. A minute later, Rasmussen would notch his second of the night on a strange play. His shot rebounded off the end boards and found the goal after hitting Hart in the back of the leg.

Hart would end the night by making 29 saves.

Rasmussen’s goal evened the game at four and it seemed like the Americans had the momentum. That’s when Bajkov forced another turnover and started a four-goal flurry in the third for Everett.

“It was not how we scripted, or planned it, but I give a lot of credit to our guys,” Williams said of the win. “It’s guys making plays. You can draw up as many systems or set plays but when you get out there and its man on man, you have to make sure you can execute.”

The win sets up a pivotal Game 4 Thursday night back at the Toyota Center. Tri-City is in a must-win situation as they don’t want to have to return to Everett with its back against the wall.

Everett can take a commanding lead with a win Thursday and have the confidence of having not lost in five road games during the playoffs. The Silvertips weren’t perfect in Game 3, but they found a way to overcome some setbacks and put the game away.

“Nothing ever pleases a coach,” Williams said in summing up Monday’s win. “You always want the best for your guys, there’s more but to come in a rink like this against a team like that. To stay calm and cool with the composure after they tied it up says a lot.”