Late-period goals costly as Vancouver downs Thunderbirds in Game 3
KENT – It took 24 seconds in the third period of Game 3 to change the fortunes for the Seattle Thunderbirds Tuesday night at the accesso ShoWare Center.
Tied at 3-3 through the first 40 minutes, the Vancouver Giants would score early in the third period to take the lead. The goal came 24 seconds into the final frame when a Roddy Ross save rebounded high up into the air. Vancouver’s Alex Kannok-Leipert tracked it, waited for it to fall, and the Washington Capitals prospect slapped it home just as it hit the ice.
The Thunderbirds couldn’t fight back as the Giants would win 6-4 and take a 2-1 lead in the opening round, best-of-seven series. Vancouver scored three of its goals in the last two minutes of a period and the go-ahead goal in the first minute of the third.
“It was a problem tonight,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said about the untimely goals against. “Taking penalties late in periods and giving up one there too. We talk about that all year. Game management is important. Starts and ends of periods, shifts after goals and the start of the third they get one and we’re chasing from there.”
Vancouver got a big night from defenseman Bowen Byram who scored once and added two assists as the Giants enjoyed six different goal scorers to go along with 25 David Tendeck saves. Seattle was paced by a pair of scores from rookie Payton Mount along with Matthew Wedman who scored once to go with one helper on the night.
Ross had an odd night in stopping 31 shots but was beat on some odd bounces. His night started with Vancouver’s Tristen Nielson tying the game at 1-1 with 33 seconds left in the first period on a shot from behind the goal line that hit him in the back and rebounded in. Later, Dallas Hines would extend the Giants third-period lead with a goal that chipped up over Ross and in the net.
“That’s hockey,” O’Dette said about the bounces Tuesday night. “You’ve got to create your own luck. We were doing that early in the game and then some game plan stuff, we stopped doing.”
Seattle was 2-for-5 on the power play – both scores coming from Mount in the second period – but missed on a chance early in the second period on a 5-on-3 power play. The score was tied at 1-1 at the time and moments after the power play ended, Byram would score to give the Giants a second period lead.
“It was a big momentum swing,” O’Dette said. “You’ve got to execute, period. You’ve got to be able to make passes and we were fanning on passes and things like that. You miss on those and they’re big factors in the game, and we lost momentum from not at least generating opportunities on it. They came back and scored.”
Mount’s goals got some momentum back for the Thunderbirds but again, a late goal would prove costly.
With Seattle up 3-2, the Thunderbirds would take a penalty and on the ensuing power-play, Byram wheeled around the zone and set up Jadon Joseph in front for his third playoff goal. It came at the 18:48 mark of the second period.
The Giants, who sport one of the league’s top power-play units, ended the evening 2-for-3 with the man advantage.
“They move it really quickly and it’s kind of tic-tac to play with them,” Seattle’s Nolan Volcan said of the Vancouver power play. “They get you moving, pull you out of position. Obviously, their power play is really good so one of our keys is trying to stay out of the box and I don’t think we did a great job of that.”
Down 5-3 in the third period, Seattle pushed for an equalizer and got closer when Sean Richards scored his second of the postseason to cut the lead but Vancouver’s Brayden Watts scored, with 22 seconds left, to give the Giants the win.
Vancouver takes back home ice with the win, and a series lead, with a chance to put Seattle on the brink of elimination Wednesday night in Game 4.
“We’ve just got to stay steady and control the nerves a little bit,” Volcan said. “I don’t know if the guys were nervous out there. We didn’t really finish strong like we wanted to, but we’ve got another game tomorrow, looking to bounce back.”
• Seattle was again without defenseman Jake Lee on Tuesday. Lee was serving the second game in his two-game suspension for a cross-checking major in Game 1 but will return for Game 4. Zach Ashton again took his place and played with Cade McNelly. “It’s going to be a big boost,” O’Dette said about Lee. “I thought those guys did well filling in but (Lee’s) been a top-four guy for us all year.”
• After putting his lines in a blender for Game 2, O’Dette went back to his traditional alignment on Tuesday. With the loss, will he change things up again? “We’ll see,” O’Dette offered. “We’ll watch the video and assess it. We need some guys to step up and needed guys to win some of their match ups.”
• The Giants have not lost back-to-back games since Jan. 2nd and 3rd when they lost in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. Seattle last lost back-to-back games in early March but one of those was a three-on-three overtime loss to Everett. The last time Seattle lost back-to-back games in regulation was Feb. 6th and 8th.
• When he hits the ice for Wednesday’s Game 4, Nolan Volcan will be playing in his 53rd career playoff game for the Thunderbirds. That will tie a franchise record set by Scott Eansor.