PORTLAND — Odd things sometimes happen in playoff hockey. For example, a masterpiece from a hot goalie can turn a perceived mismatch into a battle.
On the opening night of the 2013 Western Hockey League playoffs, Everett goalie Austin Lotz did just that as 9,390 watch at the Rose Garden.
The 17-year-old Lotz made 55 saves on Friday to back a disciplined Silvertips’ effort that produced an unexpected 4-3 win over the top-seeded Portland Winterhawks in Game 1 of a best-of-7 series.
Game 2 is 7 p.m. Saturday at the Rose Garden.
Everett had beaten Portland only once in 10 meetings during the regular season, but Lotz made 43 saves in that March 3 Silvertips win so his play on Friday was no surprise to the Winterhawks.
“Right off the bat, we saw that he was going to be good tonight,” Portland’s Ty Rattie said.
Lotz knew it early, too, He faced 22 shots in the first period, stopping 21 of them to keep Everett in the game.
“I got a lot of shots in the first period, which made me feel pretty good about my game,” Lotz said. “Whenever you get shots early in the game, it makes you feel pretty confident that you can get the job done.”
Everett gained confidence in an evenly played second period, during which it effectively slowed the Winterhawks transition game and converted on two of a series of odd-man opportunities for a 2-1 lead.
Cole MacDonald tied it three minutes into the second period on a counter-attack, and Joshua Winquist made it 2-1 Everett after the Winterhawks lost the puck at their own blueline.
Kohl Bauml scored twice in the third period, both goals giving Everett a two-goal lead that proved to be enough for Lotz.
Chase De Leo scored a rebound power-play goal in the first period for Portland. Rattie and Nic Petan — with 16 seconds left and Portland skating six-on-four — scored in the third period.
“Tonight I thought we played well enough to probably win, but in the playoffs anything can happen,” Winterhawks acting head coach Travis Green said.
Green said his team made some uncharacteristic mistakes.
“I didn’t think our puck management was as sharp for 60 minutes,” Green said. “I thought there were stages in the game where we tried to do too much with the puck, and it resulted in them getting momentum.”
Everett might not have had any momentum had Lotz not been sharp from the start.
“My team did a good job of letting me see the pucks tonight and made my job that much easier,” Lotz said. “Keeping them to the outside was a big thing that we’ve been focusing on for this series. I think the guys did that pretty well tonight and made it easier for me.”
Friday’s result — while not a fluke — doesn’t figure to turn the series on its head.
“We don’t think we played that bad,” Rattie said. “We didn’t play our best. At the same time they played an unreal game. Their defense were tight on us and their forwards were back checking on us.
“We’ll go in, look at the video and we’ll be better tomorrow night.”