PORTLAND — Mac Carruth made a perfect entry into two record books on Saturday.
The Portland Winterhawks’ goalie stopped all 27 shots the Spokane Chiefs sent his way, leading his team to a 3-0 win at the Rose Garden and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Hockey League playoff series. Carruth established a club record for playoff shutouts with four on the same night he won his league-record setting 38th career playoff game.
“It’s just a little icing on the cake,” Carruth said of collecting a pair of records on Saturday. “As long as we get the win, that’s all I’ve cared about from Day 1 here, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Chase De Leo, Nic Petan and Brendan Leipsic scored the goals, but Saturday’s win was built on discipline and determination. Portland scored once in each period, and gave Spokane only one power-play chance during a high-quality, entertaining contest in front of 10,326 fans.
Game 3 is on Tuesday at Spokane.
“I really liked our discipline. We played physical when we had to. We played strong in our own end,” acting Winterhawks coach Travis Green said. “Our guys know that in the playoffs you can’t win just playing offensively. You’ve got to play at both ends of the rink and I like the way we’ve done that throughout the playoffs so far.”
Green noted that his team has multiple guys who can make game-changing plays. For the second night in a row, it was a defenseman.
Seth Jones’ play in the third period on Saturday didn’t have the wow factor of Derrick Pouliot’s end-to-end effort on Friday. But it was, Green said, a big-time play that produced a three-goal lead.
With Spokane breaking three-on-two through center ice, Jones anticipated a pass and took the puck the other way, He carried the puck toward the net, but when he couldn’t get a shot, he dropped a pass for Ty Rattie, who whipped the puck across for Leipsic to put into an open net.
“(Taylor) Leier did a good job of driving the net, which opened up a lane for me to cut through and make a play,” Jones said. “I went to Rattie on the backside and it was a great pass from him over to Leipsic.”
Jones also had a hand in the first goal. He was attempting to hit Oliver Bjorkstrand with an up-ice breakout pass from the defensive zone. The puck instead went length of the ice where Spokane goalie Eric Williams pushed it aside. Bjorkstrand got to the loose puck and flipped it to Leier, whose pass found De Leo alone with a wide open net to shoot at.
Petan scored 1:05 into the second period after some nice work by Rattie behind the net created a back-door chance for Petan to lift into the open net for a 2-0 Portland lead.
Turned out that was plenty, though the Chiefs had a couple of pucks hit posts and created some quality chances, particularly during their only power play of the night in the third period.
The Chiefs also got strong play from Williams, who finished with 40 saves including some big ones early in the game to keep it a contest.
But the star of the show was at the other end of the rink.
“The guys played well in front of me. The defense played well, we kept the chances down,” Carruth said. “The boys let me see the puck well. That was the key tonight.”
From Jones’ perspective, it wasn’t that simple.
“He was unbelievable tonight,” Jones said about Carruth. “He made a lot of big saves for us. We had some defensive lapses. Penalty kill, five on five, he was always there to stop the puck tonight.”
Carruth’s special night for some special records didn’t surprise Green.
“Mac’s been a big part of what we’ve done the last three or four years here,” the coach said. “It doesn’t surprise us. He’s had a stellar career with us.”