PORTLAND — This hockey stuff is supposed to be fun, right?
Mac Carruth certainly thinks so. On the night the Portland Winterhawks goalie tied a Western Hockey League record with his 38th career playoff win, the 20-year-old had a bit of fun with a blind pass between his own legs in front of his own net.
“It was kind of fun,” Carruth said of the play, which came while Portland held a two-goal lead in the second period. “You have fun out there. It was probably not the most ideal situation. But it worked.”
There was plenty of fun to go around on Friday as the Winterhawks opened the second round of the WHL playoffs with a 7-2 win over the Spokane Chiefs in front of 6,172 fans at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Ty Rattie scored three consecutive goals in the third period to become the franchise’s all-time leader in career playoff points, the second line set the tone with three rebound goals. Derrick Pouliot delivered three assists and a skillful goal in a rousing start to the second playoff round for the Winterhawks.
Game 2 is at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Rose Garden.
The game was tied 2-2 midway through the second period before Portland took over.
Oliver Bjorkstrand, who had two goals and one assist, scored his second rebound goal of the game to break the tie, then Pouliot weaved through the Chiefs’ defense for a special individual effort to make it 4-2.
The third period was the Rattie show. The 19-year-old scored power-play goals at 47 seconds and 18:23 to go with an even-strength marker at 5:28 that started with Pouliot weaving through center to set up quick passes from Nic Petan and Brendan Leipsic to Rattie on the doorstep.
“The first two periods, I was thinking to myself that nothing was going (right) tonight,” Rattie said. “But our second line was going hard, and in the third period my line stepped up and got a couple of good bounces.”
The Hawks’ second line of Bjorkstrand, Taylor Leier and Chase De Leo established itself as a force right from the start, continuing a run of success in games against Spokane.
“They’ve got a good combination of skill and work ethic, and when they put it together they’re a lethal line,” Rattie said.
Leier scored a backhand rebound goal 5:46 into the game, and Bjorkstrand lifted home a Leier shot for the goal that gave Portland a 2-1 lead 4:05 into the second period.
“We talked about getting a lot of shots on goal and today I was in the right spot to get a couple of rebounds,” Bjorkstrand said. “When you get those chances, you have to bury them. I did tonight, which was nice.”
A strange short-handed tally briefly got Spokane even at 2-2.
Spokane cleared the puck up ice, and it bounced off the boards, but not far enough for Carruth to legally play it. As the Portland goalie waited for the puck, Spokane’s Todd Fiddler swooped in, took the puck around the net and scored.
Carruth put that behind him, finishing with 38 saves on 40 shots. And, of course, calmly passing the puck between his own skates as a Spokane player bared down on him.
“(Carruth) is a third D-man for us out there,” Rattie said, noting that the goalie spares his defensemen some hits by playing pucks and making passes to relieve a forecheck. “If he wants to pull that stuff and it works, it’s fine by me.”
It was a fine time for Carruth to tie Cam Ward, who set the record with 38 playoff wins for the Red Deer Rebels from 2001-04. And the hat-trick was a fine way for Rattie to pass Randy Heath to become the Winterhawks all-time playoff scorer.
NOTES — Spokane actually outshot Portland 40-39. … Portland finished 2 for 8 on the power play; Spokane was 0 for 3 and had only one that went the full two minutes. Chiefs goalie Eric Williams made 32 saves.