T-Birds blank Tri-City 4-0 for eighth straight win

Mar 6, 2016, 8:15 PM | Updated: Mar 7, 2016, 11:05 am

Playing their third game in as many nights, it took the Thunderbirds a while to get their legs going Sunday in Kennewick.

They found those legs midway through the second period and would go on to score four unanswered goals on their way to a 4-0 win over the Tri-City Americans. It was a complete team effort that included four different goal scorers and goalie Logan Flodell making 17 saves for his third shutout this season.

It’s the eighth straight win for Seattle (40-23-3-0) as it extends its lead on idle Everett to four points for the top spot in the U.S. Division. The win was the T-Birds’ 13th in their last 14 games as their late-season surge continues.

“Good win, really good second period,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said after. “You couldn’t ask for a better second period as far as the game plan. Trying to grind them out and they stuck with it. We’ve got a lot of guys who are playing good hockey.”

The two teams played a scoreless first period where there weren’t a ton of quality chances, but the T-Birds would change that in the second.

They got on the board first when a Scott Eansor shot was stopped by Americans goalie Nicholas Sanders. The rebound came right to Donovan Neuls, who had room and potted his 12th of the year. It took Seattle just 25 seconds to extend the lead as Cavin Leth picked up a loose puck at the blue line and skated in close to beat Sanders with a top-shelf shot.

Seattle out shot the Americans 18-8 in the second frame and its defense was stingy all night. Flodell made every save but the guys in front of him kept Tri-City (31-32-2-1) to the outside and didn’t allow very many second-chance opportunities.

“We did a good job in the house area there,” Konowalchuk said. “Protecting the house and keeping them to the outside. We limited the number of high quality shots.”

Heading into the third period with a two-goal lead had to build confidence for the T-Birds. They have been a strong third-period team over the last month and Sunday they bore down and put the game away.

Alexander True has been snake-bitten all year, as he’s gone stretches where he’s just missed on numerous goal scoring chances. Sunday he managed to score an unconventional marker. He took a shot early in the final frame that missed the net but rebounded hard off the end glass. The puck ricocheted back towards the goal and bounced off of Sander’s back and into the net.

For a guy who plays hard every night, it had to be a big boost to have a bounce go his way.

“Sometimes you get a good bounce,” Konowalchuk said. “He’s playing good hockey for us, that line’s been playing good hockey for us. They’ve had so many chances and they finally get a goal like that, they deserved it.”

Andreas Schumacher would add an empty net tally later in the period – his first with Seattle – to put the game away.

Seattle’s top line was held off the score sheet Sunday but it didn’t matter as it continues to get contributions from every guy on the ice. Secondary scoring will be a huge factor as the club moves into the postseason.

The T-Birds also managed to find a way to create energy and focus despite playing seven games over the last ten days, including back to back three-game weekends.

“I’m really happy with the guys,” Konowalchuk said. “It’s a tough stretch with a lot of hockey and they stayed focused on each game and each shift. Credit to the guys for the way they’ve buckled down. Some very emotional wins at times and to be able to turn the page and move on is very hard to do, our guys have done a good job with that.”

The team will now get a much deserved week off as it won’t be in action again until Friday when they host the Silvertips. With just six games left in the season, nothing is decided yet and the T-Birds have made it clear that they want the U.S. Division title.

Playing the way they are now, it’s going to be hard to keep them from doing that.

Notes

• Earlier in the season Seattle struggled somewhat on the road. The win on Sunday gives it four straight road victories as it is finally finding a way to play away from the ShoWare Center.

• Mathew Barzal did not register a point Sunday, ending his 13-game point streak.

• With Everett off Sunday, the Silvertips will have one game in hand with Seattle. That game will be played on Tuesday evening when they will host Portland.

• With 40 wins, the T-Birds have surpassed last season’s total of 38. The club won 41 games in the 2013-14 season. Two more wins would match the 2007-08 campaign and if they can manage five wins out of the last six they will have won the most games since the 52-win 1989-90 team.

Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.

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