T-Birds beat Portland 6-5 in an overtime barn burner
KENT – Minutes after scoring the game-winning goal with less than a second left in overtime Saturday night, Seattle’s Scott Eansor was all smiles.
“That’s what hockey is all about,” he said.
In one of the more exciting hockey games of the year,Seattle came back three times to beat the Portland Winterhawks 6-5 in overtime. Eansor got the game winner when he deposited a rebound past a sprawled Adin Hill with 0.8 seconds on the clock.
The goal ignited the 4,691 fans at the ShoWare Center and the T-Birds bench emptied in jubilation.
There was a little bit of everything in the game as the T-Birds came back from two-goal deficits twice, an additional one-goal deficit, overcame an apparent game-winning goal by Portland and a four-on-three penalty kill in overtime.
“It’s a gutsy win,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “We could have folded our tents three times. It’s just a reminder that you’ve got to just keep playing every single shift and not worrying about what’s going on around you.”
Tied at 5 in overtime, a turnover at the Seattle blue line gave Portland’s Caleb Jones a clean path to the net. He moved in, collided with goalie Logan Flodell and the puck slid into the net.
The referee signaled goal and the Portland bench emptied into the corner to celebrate. The Seattle players on the ice contested the call and it went to video review. After several minutes of deliberation the ref waived his hands – no goal.
The ruling was that Jones hit the puck in with his arm, which is not allowed. On the play Mathew Barzal was called for holding as he desperately tried to stop Jones.
That gave Portland a dangerous four-on-three power-play chance. Seattle killed it off as it had the previous three chances the Winterhawks had on the night. The T-Birds’ penalty kill is the best in the league but with all that extra ice it was a tougher job.
“You practice five-on-three,” Konowalchuk said. “Four-on-three the difference is you can get a little more pressure. You can get them on the run but it’s a lot of ice and you need a blocked shot and a big save.”
At the other end with time running out, Ryan Gropp gave the puck to Jerret Smith at the blue line. He took a shot that Hill stopped, but three Portland players couldn’t keep Eansor from getting the rebound and flicking it in.
“I was personally relieved, it wasn’t my best game,” Eansor said. “The guys really played their hearts out today and battled back. I feel like that was the way it was supposed to go. Give Portland credit, they battled back too but it was a really good team effort and a lot of guys put the team first today.”
Eansor was the last hero in a game filled with many heroes.
After Evan Weinger and Rodrigo Abols scored to give Portland a 2-0 first period lead, the T-Birds stormed back.
They outshot Portland 17-9 in the second and tied the game on goals by Gropp and Alexander True. It was the first goal that True had scored since Nov. 17 as the big forward had been snake-bit.
Despite the domination, the T-Birds let two breakdowns in their end cost them in the last two minutes. Keoni Texeira beat Flodell with a wrist shot and then Alex Overhardt got behind the Seattle defense and scored on a breakaway.
When the period ended, the T-Birds were somehow trailing 4-2.
“Just stay positive and keep working hard out there,” captain Jerret Smith said of the between-period message. “We know we can score goals and play the right way. Just keep working hard and bounces will come.”
The third period started much the same way the second did, with the T-Birds buzzing.
Donovan Neuls scored on a Seattle power play to cut the lead and then Smith scored on a tap-in after a nice feed from Nolan Volcan.
“I was going wide and hoped Volcan could see me,” Smith said. “Just going hard and honestly thought I was going to miss it. It was nice to get one in first game back.”
It was the first game back for Smith after missing six with an injured shoulder. He got the big goal and two assists in his return, and he said he’s ready to go.
“It’s definitely hard to sit out,” Smith said. “It’s nice to see the game from a different perspective but it’s hard. I like being in there, especially when the boys are playing hard.”
Tied at 4, the drama was far from over.
Portland took the lead again when Alex Schoenborn beat Flodell through a screen. With just under seven minutes left Barzal found Gropp in the high slot, who ripped home his second goal of the night to set up the overtime.
It was a big win for Seattle as it creeps two points closer to first place as the Silvertips lost to Victoria in Everett. It also was the second straight game that the Seattle offense scored six times.
Seattle put up a season-high 54 shots on the board, and if not for some good saves by Hill the game could have been won easier.
The T-Birds have a quick turnaround as they will host the red-hot Victoria Royals on Sunday. Victoria has won 11 straight and is in a neck-and-neck battle with Kelowna for the Western Conference lead.
“That was electric,” Eansor said. “The crowd was awesome tonight, it was really fun game. Take a few hours tonight and enjoy this. As soon as you get home we’re focusing on tomorrow.”
• Barzal’s game may have been lost in the late dramatics, but he potentially was the T-Birds’ best player on the night. He set up three of Seattle’s goals and has nine points in the three games he’s played this week.
• Gropp scored twice and added an assist to give him a three-point night.
• Logan Flodell got the start for the injured Landon Bow. He made 28 saves.
• True’s goal was a big monkey off his back. The Danish center has had chances but has just missed. His goal in the second period was good and you could see the relief as he celebrated with his teammates. His last goal was scored against current Seattle goalie Landon Bow, who was playing for Swift Current at the time.
Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.