Thunderbirds struggle with Everett again in 4-1 loss
KENT – The Everett Silvertips continued their mastery over the Thunderbirds Saturday night at the ShoWare Center.
Everett controlled the game from the outset and picked up its fifth win in the season series, 4-1. Carson Stadnyk and Graham Millar each scored twice for the Silvertips and goalie Carter Hart made 23 saves for what was also his fifth victory over the T-Birds.
The loss drops the T-Birds nine points behind Everett in the race for the U.S. Division, a race that may be slipping through Seattle’s fingers.
The Silvertips clamped down on Seattle as they have done all year, starting with a strong forecheck in the first period. The T-Birds struggled to get out of their own zone at times, and despite only allowing five Everett shots trailed by two goals.
“Well they scored so we’re chasing,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “They scored on both their chances, made two good plays on the goals. Then, all of a sudden, it’s a tough team to come back on.”
Stadnyk got the Silvertips on the board first when he was quicker than Landon Bow and beat the Seattle goalie with a wrap-around goal. He would make it 2-0 later in the first when he slapped home a rebound from the circle to Bow’s left.
Seattle has only scored three goals once this season against Hart and the Silvertips, and when Everett made it 3-0 seven minutes into the second period on Millar’s first, the game was in jeopardy.
Down three goals against a team that only allows 2.67 goals-per-game is a tough task, and Hart and the Silvertips have made life hard on Seattle’s offense all season.
Offense and goal scoring has been a problem of late for Seattle anyway, so having to come back against Hart and the Silvertips felt like an impossibility.
“At times I thought we pushed the pace,” Konowalchuk said. “Others we tried to get too cute and that plays in their hands as well.”
The T-Birds came into the game averaging 3.03 goals per game, but in their last nine games have only averaged 2.33. They could not get consistent pressure Saturday on Hart, and when they did get pressure they passed up shots.
“Sometimes we had traffic,” Konowalchuk said. “We didn’t get pucks there, we didn’t shoot. I think we’re getting guys there but we’ve got to get pucks there. Sometimes we want to hit the seams too much.”
To try and jump-start his offense, Konowalchuk deployed some different line combinations at the start of the game.
Most notably was Mathew Barzal being moved to a line with Nolan Volcan and Donovan Neuls. It didn’t get the results they were hoping for, and at the end of the game Barzal was back with Ryan Gropp and Keegan Kolesar.
Seattle got some life in the third period when Brandon Schuldhaus threw a puck through traffic for his second goal of the season.
The T-Birds had a couple of power-play chances after that goal but could not convert as Hart made some solid saves. Just after the second man-advantage ended, Millar scored his second of the night to make it 4-1 and essentially end the game.
With 20 games left in the regular season, the T-Birds are looking up at Everett by nine points, all gained by Everett in the head-to-head match up with the T-Birds.
Hart has also had Seattle’s number. He is 5-1 and has only allowed eight goals in the six games.
Seattle still has four games head to head with Everett but will have to prove that they can handle them if they want to come back to win the division.
“I don’t know if they’re in our head,” Konowalcuk said. “We’ve got to make sure we get through a little bit of adversity here … Just internally get everyone on the same page again, worrying about playing the right way.”
The T-Birds’ stretch of five games in seven nights picks up again as they will head to Kelowna for a Monday afternoon game with the Rockets before making a quick turnaround to host Kelowna on Tuesday.
• Seattle continues to play without captain Jerret Smith, who is out with an upper-body injury. Smith was injured by a hit by Everett’s Remi Laurencelle last weekend. Saturday was Laruencelle’s first game back after a three-game suspension for the hit.
• The T-Birds were also down a second defenseman as Turner Ottenbreit is serving a suspension after his hit to the head major Friday night in in Portland. Being down two of your top defenseman is never easy. “They’re good players,” Konowalchuk said. “They help you spend less time in your own end. We weren’t in our end a ton but we had big breakdowns, I don’t know if the goalies had much chance on the goals they scored. Our D-zone coverage has to be sharper there.”
• Landon Bow came out of the game late in the second period. He skated to the bench during a timeout and spoke to the trainers. He suffered some sort of injury, though Konowalchuk thought he would be all right.
• As Barzal goes, so goes the T-Birds offense. He was held scoreless on Saturday night and hasn’t registered a point in three games. That is the longest such streak of the season. Seattle is 1-2 in those games.
Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.