SPOKANE — Protecting a one-goal lead for most of the last 24 minutes of the game, the Portland Winterhawks clamped down on the Spokane Chiefs and seized command of their Western Hockey League playoff series.
Ty Rattie, Nic Petan and Taylor Leier scored goals in a 3-1 win on Tuesday at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena that gives the Winterhawks a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. Portland can close out the series with a win in Game 4 at Spokane on Wednesday.
“They’re not going to roll over for us,” Petan said of the Chiefs. “We’ve got to come in (on Wednesday) and compete the same way we did tonight.”
Winterhawks assistant coach Kyle Gustafson said Portland’s disciplined play was important, especially early in Tuesday’s game.
“We were really happy with the way we played in the first period,” Gustafson said, noting that the Chiefs came out with a lot of energy in their first home game of the series.
Portland had some good scoring chances in the first 10 minutes, but the game was scoreless until Petan and Rattie teamed up in the final minute of the first period.
A couple of blocked shots at the defensive end by the Portland forwards led to a two-on-one rush. Despite being at the end of an extended shift, Petan carried the puck into Spokane territory and sent a pass to Rattie who scored 19:13 into the game.
“We both were dead tired and just wanted to get the two-on-one over with,” Petan said.
Petan made the score 2-0 eight minutes into the second period, converting a back-hand shot from in front off a feed from Troy Rutkowski.
Spokane, which was shut out in Game 2, finally beat Portland goalie Mac Carruth as Blake Gal scored on the power play 16:32 into the second period.
The Winterhawks nearly extended their lead twice in the third period. First, a Leier goal was disallowed because officials ruled it came after a hand pass. Later in the period, Oliver Bjorkstrand hit the crossbar with a shot.
Leier finally sealed it with an empty-net goal with 15 seconds remaining.
Carruth stopped 25 of 26 shots for his 40th career WHL playoff win. Spokane goalie Eric Williams also played well, making 33 saves on 35 shots.
Spokane finished 1 for 4 on the power play. Portland was 0 for 3.
“We had some great penalty killing, and Mac was great in net,” Gustafson said.
A year ago, Portland led Kamloops 3-0 in the same playoff round. That conference semifinal series was extended to a seventh game before the Hawks advanced.
Gustafson said the coaches wouldn’t dwell on that history in preparing for Wednesday’s game. Instead, the focus will be on playing a strong first 10 minutes in Game 4.
“We just have to live in the moment,” he said.
Kamloops leads Kelowna 3-0 in the other Western Conference semifinal after a 5-4 overtime win on Tuesday, meaning both the Blazers and Winterhawks can advance to meet in the conference final with wins on Wednesday.