Thunderbirds take 2-1 series lead with 5-0 shutout in Everett
EVERETT – Wednesday night in Everett, the Thunderbirds continued their game-plan of getting as many pucks on the Silvertips’ net as they could.
For the first time this season, several of those pucks got past Everett star goalie Carter Hart.
The T-Birds took a 2-1 series lead with a 5-0 shutout of the Silvertips at Everett’s XFinity Arena. Seattle had goals from five different players, three assists from both Mathew Barzal and Nolan Volcan along with a 23-save shutout from Landon Bow.
“We did everything right,” Bow said. “We were just putting pucks to the net, doing what the game-plan said. It really worked out well tonight; we got a bunch. But we know that Hart’s a really good goalie and it’s not going to be like that every night. We’re going to have to battle.”
Bow was front and center early on Wednesday as the Silvertips came out to start the game strong. They pushed Seattle hard over the first 10 minutes and earned three first-period power plays. Bow and the T-Birds killed them all off, which helped settle the Seattle ship.
It may even have given the T-Birds some momentum.
“We knew Everett was going to push right off the bat in their own barn,” Bow said. “We took a couple of penalties but we killed those off and got some momentum and after that started moving forward better.”
With the game still scoreless, the T-Birds started getting back into their game-plan and were led by Barzal, who was a force all night.
He created chances, set up three of the T-Birds’ five goals while causing chaos on the fore-check and solid back-checking in his own end. It seemed like he was able to take the puck off of Everett sticks at will.
It’s something that both he and his coach talked about being crucial to setting up the offense.
“We want everyone in our locker room to play both ends of the ice and he’s a leader for us,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “We know what he can do offensively and he’s also capable of playing defense. When he’s back-checking and doing the little things, he’s a real good hockey player.”
While he didn’t score a goal, Barzal drove the offense all night. He has had an impressive start to the playoffs and the three points Wednesday pushed his postseason total to 12 in seven games. After the game Wednesday, he also pointed out the importance of playing at both ends of the ice.
“I think they’ve got some of the hardest working guys in the league over there,” Barzal said. “Just because I’m a so-called skill player, that doesn’t mean I can’t go out there and not work hard. I’ve got to lead the way by example, back-checking hard.”
After a scoreless first period, the T-Birds got on the board in the first with a somewhat lucky goal. Scott Eansor fired a shot at Hart that hit the goaltender’s glove. Hart wasn’t able to close the glove on it, however, and the puck sneaked past him for Eansor’s third goal of the playoffs.
After struggling to beat Hart all year, the T-Birds finally had a bounce go their way against him.
“They play tight and we were lucky enough to get a few bounces tonight,” Barzal said. “We just have to have that mindset of going to the net and putting pucks on net.”
The goal seemed to ignite the T-Birds and they weren’t done scoring in the second period.
Barzal made a nice play to set up Ethan Bear for a goal 8 minutes later and then Barzal again got the puck to Keegan Kolesar for another goal. It was the fifth goal for the big winger as his strong postseason campaign continues.
Kolesar was in the middle of some controversy in the third period.
Everett’s Dawson Leedahl caught Kolesar with a knee-on-knee hit that left him on the ice in pain. He had to be helped off the ice and did not return. Leedahl was given a 5-minute major for kneeing and most likely will be looking at supplementary discipline from the league. The Silvertips were already playing the game without forward Carson Stadnyk and defenseman Noah Juulsen, so a suspension of Leedahl at this point in the series could be a crucial blow.
The result of the play was that the T-Birds would be on an extended 5-minute power play. Seattle made the rest of the tips pay for the penalty by scoring twice on the power play with goals from Turner Ottenbreit and Donovan Neuls.
With the win, the T-Birds have taken home-ice advantage back after coughing it up in Game 1 of the second-round series.
“Home-ice advantage is such a big thing and winning on the other team’s ice is a hard thing to do,” Bow said. “So coming in here and getting the win sets us up for a nice chance.”
The T-Birds know their work isn’t finished and they have a chance to take a commanding lead in the series on Friday. The Silvertips will be a desperate hockey club, so the T-Birds have to forget about Wednesday’s big win and prepare for another tough battle.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game on Friday and they’re going to come out hard,” Barzal said.
• Konowalchuk did not have an assessment as to Kolesar’s injury after the game. He also declined to comment on the hit that caused the injury as he said he didn’t get a good look at it live.
• Seattle defenseman Jarret Tyszka left the game in the third period after being cut by a puck that hit him in the face. He also did not return.
• After struggling early in the season on the road, the T-Birds have become road warriors of sorts. Going back to the regular season, they are now 8-0-1-0 in their last nine road games. The win was also their second straight in Everett.
• The T-Birds made one lineup adjustment on Wednesday, moving big winger Andreas Schumacher up to the top line with Barzal and Kolesar. The Swedish import player was a presence all night in the corners and providing traffic in front of Hart.
• Game 4 will be Friday night at 7:30 and Game 5 will be back at the ShoWare Center on Saturday evening.
Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.