Third period power-play goals lift Thunderbirds past Everett
KENT – With just over seven minutes left in Saturday’s game against Everett, the Seattle Thunderbirds were struggling to solve Carter Hart.
The Silvertips goalie was doing what he often seems to do, stymie the Seattle shooters.
Everett led Seattle 2-1 in a big inter-division match up but the T-Birds were on their way to the power play. The Everett penalty kill is the tops in the league however and had not allowed a power-play goal against in its last 33 attempts – a span of 13 games.
That streak ended right there when Ethan Bear fired a slap shot that Hart got a piece of but couldn’t corral. That goal tied the game at two and ignited the Seattle bench.
The T-Birds continued to push and when Nolan Volcan was dragged down in the Everett zone, they would get one more shot at the power play before the end of regulation. Once again, it was Bear who would step up. He got a feed from Mathew Barzal and fired a wrist shot that beat Hart and sent the 5,075 at the ShoWare Center into a delirium with just over a minute to go.
“I just tried to get myself into scoring position,” Bear said about the game winner. “Barzy found me and I knew there a lot of guys in front so I just picked a corner and I got lucky.”
Seattle (28-15-3-1) would hold on for a big 3-2 win as they pulled to within nine points of first place Everett (30-8-7-2).
It was an all-around team effort as Barzal chipped in three more assists and his linemates, Keegan Kolesar and Ryan Gropp, also picked up points. Back up goalie Matthew Berlin stepped in for Rylan Toth and made 21 saves in the victory.
“They stayed patient in the third period and ground it out,” Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said of his squad. “Getting that tying goal kind of gave us wind but they persevered and kept playing. (Everett’s) a tough team when they get the lead but our guys just stuck with it.”
The game was a tight-checking affair and the T-Birds were forcing the issue physically all night.
“We like to be physical,” Konowalchuk said. “They pride themselves on being hard on pucks so you’ve got to keep battling and chipping away. I thought both teams played well and it’s good to get the win.”
Seattle would get sloppy with the puck in the first period and it ended up costing.
A failure to clear their zone resulted in a turnover and the puck wound up on the stick of Everett’s Dominic Zwerger. He waited out Berlin to score his 21st of the season.
The T-Birds would start the second period better and get the game tied up at one after Barzal stole a puck and quickly got it to Kolesar who beat Hart for his ninth marker.
Seattle wasn’t able to capitalize on that momentum however and the Silvertips would grab the lead back before the period ended. They worked the puck around the Seattle zone and the T-Bird defenders lost track of Patrick Bajkov who was to Berlin’s right. The puck found him and he buried his 21st goal of the year to give Everett a 2-1 lead.
The Silvertips were doing a good job of clamping down on the T-Birds until the first score by Bear that got the game back to even.
“You have to just keep putting pucks on net,” Barzal said. “He’s a great goaltender and if you’re only getting 20 shots I don’t think you’re scoring more than a goal or two. Just have to keep putting pucks on net.”
Seattle would end up out-shooting Everett 30-23 on the evening.
Having won four in a row and 10-out-of-11 the T-Birds are streaking. This weekend has already been fruitful but they have one more big match up Sunday evening as Tri City will come to the ShoWare Center.
“We’re just kind of taking it game by game here,” Barzal said. “Points are crucial right now with the standings, so every game we’re preparing the same.”
Playing three games in three nights, all against the teams ahead of them in the standings, makes for playoff type hockey and getting enough rest will be key.
“Lots of liquids,” Bear said about recovering for Sunday.
• Both clubs were playing with somewhat depleted lineups. Everett was without Noah Juulsen, Lucas Skrumeda and Brian King. Seattle was without Scott Eansor, Matthew Wedman and Jarret Tyszka.
• Seattle’s power play is starting to heat up. With two goals on Saturday, the T-Birds have potted four power-play goals in their last three games. “It’s just shot mentality,” Barzal said of the resurgence. “Everybody knows their role on the power play. Obviously, Bear’s a shooter, Gropp’s a shooter. Everybody is moving the puck quick and getting them in.”
• Barzal continues to rack up points this year. With three more assists on Saturday he now has 28 in 21 games played. He is averaging 1.62 points-per-game, which his career best.
• The T-Birds did not pick up any points on second place Tri City Saturday as the Americans beat Spokane. The two teams will play Sunday however, and the T-Birds have a chance to move within one point.