Late Silvertips goal sends T-Birds to third straight loss

Jan 31, 2016, 8:53 AM | Updated: 10:34 pm

EVERETT – The Seattle Thunderbirds found themselves unable to flip the script on Saturday night when it comes to playing the Everett Silvertips.

In front of a sold out Xfinity Arena crowd the T-Birds were not able to solve Silvertips goalie Carter Hart and fell 2-1 on a late goal from Everett’s Graham Millar. Hart made 34 saves and once again the T-Birds were unable to capitalize on their chances against him – something that has happened in the four losses Seattle has suffered in the season series.

Ryan Gropp had the lone Seattle tally as the T-Birds played a strong game most of the night but still managed to come up short. The loss is the third straight for Seattle (26-19-3-0) as it falls seven points behind Everett (29-15-2-2) in the U.S. Division standings.

“This was definitely their goalie’s best game he’s played against us,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said after. “He gave that team a chance to win in my mind. I liked a lot of what we did.”

As it seems happens in every game against the Silvertips, the T-Birds could not cash in on multiple chances.

With the score tied in the third, Scott Eansor seemingly had Hart out of position for a wraparound goal. Eansor got the puck behind the netminder but somehow it slid harmlessly across the crease without crossing the goal line. Later a bad bounce sent the puck right to Cavin Leth in the slot. He fired a shot that Hart came out to make a save on.

It was that kind of night, and late in the third period, the T-Birds were given a golden opportunity to put the game away – an opportunity that came with a price.

With under ten minutes to go, Everett’s Remi Laurencelle drove Jerret Smith head first into the end boards. He was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct. In the scrum after the hit, Mathew Barzal was also given a roughing penalty.

Seattle would end up with a five-minute major power play but could not find the net. With Barzal in the box for the first three minutes of the man-advantage, the T-Birds were unable to get organized. When they did, they got some good chances but Hart ended it with a nice glove save just as the penalty was expired.

“You definitely want to score there,” Konowalchuk said of the chance. “But Matty’s in the box for the first part and more than three minutes, and Smith is another power play guy so you’re throwing guys in there … You’d like to get a goal there … But that’s hockey and we’ve got to build of it and find a way to get a little bit better.”

After getting a big kill of their own late in the third period the T-Birds would surrender the game-winning goal to Millar.

A clearing attempt hit a skate and rebounded right to Millar along the half boards. He had room and moved in on the Seattle goal alone. Landon Bow tried to poke check the puck away but Millar held him off and with Bow down, lifted the puck into the Seattle net with just 1:50 left in the game.

“We had a chance to get it up the ice,” Konowalchuk said of the goal. “They kept it in and put it on the net, beat our guy out of the corner.”

Everett had jumped out to the lead early in the first corner when Brandon Ralph potted his fifth goal of the year from right in front of the Seattle net. That goal woke the T-Birds up and they would get the game square when Gropp fired a quick wrist shot from the slot on a Seattle power-play.

The difference in the game was Hart.

The league’s leading goaltender was sharp all night and picked up his fourth win against the T-Birds on the season. He has only allowed six goals in the season series as Seattle can’t find a way to score against him.

Is he in the T-Birds shooters’ heads?

“We were missing the net a lot,” Konowalchuk said. “Shooting them high instead of getting them on net. The biggest thing is you can’t get frustrated as a team when you’re not scoring goals. You’ve got to be willing to stick with it and grind it out.”

With the win the Silvertips snapped their three-game losing streak and put Seattle on a three-game losing streak of its own.

The difference in the standings is reflected in the head-to-head series between the two clubs. Everett has gained seven points in the five games, exactly how much they lead Seattle in the division race.

Playing a strong game is one thing, but if the T-Birds plan on catching the Silvertips they’re going to have to find a way to score goals. The two clubs still will meet five more times before the season ends and the intensity may only get higher with each meeting.

Saturday night’s game was certainly intense, aided by a packed house.

“It was a good game from both teams,” Konowalchuk said. “It was a playoff game. In our division with Portland and these guys these kids get a good taste of quality hockey and good excitement and good fans. You have to be ready to play in these games with that intensity.”

The T-Birds will look to salvage one win out of their three-in-three weekend when they host the Kelowna Rockets on Sunday at the ShoWare Center.

Notes

• Landon Bow was named the second star on Saturday and was solid in net. He only allowed the two goals and made 21 saves.

• The two goals scored was an offensive explosion for Everett. It was the first time it had scored more than one goal in any game since Jan. 16 in a 5-2 win over Seattle.

• Smith did not return to the game after being hit by Laurencelle. There was no word after the contest as to his status. If he can’t go on Sunday the T-Birds will be left with only five healthy defensemen. Laurencelle may be looking at a suspension from the league as well.

• Seattle’s league-leading penalty kill was sharp again on Saturday, killing off all six of Everett’s chances.

Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.

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