Dramatic overtime goal at Everett gives Thunderbirds fourth straight win
EVERETT – For the second time in a week, Seattle Thunderbirds forward Keegan Kolesar gave his team a dramatic win over the Everett Silvertips.
Saturday night it was Kolesar’s overtime goal with just 16 seconds left that gave the T-Birds a big 4-3 win at a sold out Xfinity Arena. It was Seattle’s fourth straight win and second in a row against the first place Silvertips.
“Entertaining game, it’s what you’d expect,” Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “They check, check, check and their goalie makes some big saves for them. Overall, it’s real nice to get the win and our guys stuck with it.”
Seattle (22-14-3-1) did stick with it after allowing Everett (27-5-7-1) to tie the game at three late in the third period. It was a bad luck type goal as a shot by Matt Fonteyne deflected off a stick and fluttered towards the net. That threw off goalie Rlyan Toth’s timing and the puck found the back of the net.
That could have sunk the T-Birds, who have seen late leads vanish in Everett on strange plays in the past.
“We kept playing and went right back at it,” Konowlchuk said. “It kind of deflected so it was kind of a change-up, knuckler on Toth, those are tough on goalies when it happened.”
Toth turned in another strong performance and ended his night with the win by making 28 saves.
The Fonteyne goal pushed the game into the three-on-three overtime where Seattle dominated. They never gave up the puck and took all 8 shots in the extra frame.
Despite that, it was starting to look like they weren’t going to find the win. Everett goalie Carter Hart was spectacular in the overtime period and turned away several top-notch scoring chances. He robbed Alexander True with a quick glove save from in close and it was looking like the game would go to the shootout, as the two teams did last Friday.
With time running out however, the Silvertips lost track of Kolesar who was alone at center ice. Ethan Bear found him with a long stretch pass that sent Kolesar in the zone all by himself. He snapped a wrist shot that beat Hart for his seventh goal of the season.
“Just faceoffs,” Mathew Barzal said about the overtime dominance. “You have to get that first draw and just play smart, don’t force any pucks. As soon as you do it can go the other way.”
Barzal was making his return to the team after spending a month with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. He played his usual strong game, showing no signs of rust and Konowalchuk had him play a ton of minutes Saturday night.
“He played one of his better games of the year,” Konowalchuk said of his returning star. “He was ready to go, you could see it when he came back the other day. He wanted to be out there and when he’s into the game that much, feeling confident, I’m going to get him out there as much as I can.”
The New York Islanders prospect picked up an assist on the Kolesar winner and it was his third period goal that gave Seattle a lead.
Tied at two, Barzal got the puck in the slot from Ryan Gropp. He spun and fired a quick backhanded shot that beat Hart between his pads. It wasn’t the prettiest goal but it was the kind of goal that is needed to beat a goalie of Hart’s caliber.
Barzal and Hart were teammates on Team Canada and he got to see the Everett netminder quite a bit in practice. He came away with a lot of respect for him.
“He doesn’t have too many holes in his game,” Barzal said. “He’s probably the best goalie in the league and again tonight made a ton of big saves, We know goals are hard to come by here so we try to get as many shots as we can.”
Getting pucks on net was a theme for the T-Birds.
After the two teams played an entertaining, yet scoreless, first period, the T-Birds would get on the board by getting pucks on net.
They scored two goals in a 24 second span and both were of the gritty variety.
On the first, Donovan Neuls fired a shot into traffic that hit the post and rebounded right in front of Hart. With the puck loose the T-Birds crashed the net and started banging away at it. Bear finally found it and pushed it under Hart’s pads for his 12th of the season.
The second goal was nearly a carbon copy of the first only with Alexander True ending the scrum in front of the net for his 11th marker.
“Getting pucks to the net and battling, battling,” Konowalchuk said of the goals. “The goals were good but this was a good team effort. We’ve got guys who are playing and banging the bodies. Fourth line did their job, the third line did their job and that’s all part of it.”
As they often do, the Silvertips came back.
Less than two minutes after True’s goal, Everett stole a puck in the neutral zone and quickly moved it to Connor Dewar who scored to cut the lead. Shortly after that Eetu Tuulola would fire the puck after a faceoff win for a quick goal.
When these two clubs played last week, the Silvertips managed to erase a three-goal Seattle lead and Saturday did the same with a two-goal lead. Last Friday the Silvertips did it behind three power-play goals and feature one of the league’s top power-play units.
Saturday would be different as the T-Birds penalty kill was strong and killed off all three Everett chances which was a big key to the win.
“We were on our toes a little bit more,” Konowalchuk said. “At home we definitely let them get set up too much, today we were on our toes and I don’t think we let them get set up at all.”
Seattle has reached the time of the year when all wins and points are key. They also are going to be busy over the next week and will become even more familiar with their closest rivals. The T-Birds are back on the ice Sunday afternoon when they host Spokane but will see Everett three more times over the next week.
“It’s a good two points,” Konowalchuk said. “Anytime you come in here in front of a big crowd, guys played hard and I’m happy to see our guys play that way.”
• Known for his playmaking skills, Barzal’s assist Saturday was his 164th in 175 career games. Strangely, he was sitting on the bench when the goal was scored. He had given the puck to Bear and then headed off for a change. Bear took the puck all the way back into the Seattle zone before hitting Kolesar. Not bad, when you can get a point while sitting down.
• Over its last four games the Silvertips have only allowed seven goals. All seven of those goals were scored by the T-Birds. Everett was coming off back-to-back shut outs.
• Coming back from a high profile event like the World Juniors can sometimes be a letdown for a young player. Barzal said it helped that he was thrown right into a big game in front of a big crowd. “I was used to playing in front of 15 to 18,000 the last month so there was a good crowd here tonight,” he said. “It was easy to get back into it tonight.”
• The T-Birds didn’t score on their lone power-play chance Saturday and only have one conversion in their last 32 attempts.