Led by a confident forecheck and an efficient power play, the Portland Winterhawks earned an important win on Wednesday.
Friday, they will try to put some meaningful distance between themselves and the Everett Silvertips when the teams clash in Game 4 of their Western Hockey League playoff series at Comcast Arena in Everett.
If Portland wins Friday night, it will have a chance to finish off Everett on Saturday in Veterans Memorial Coliseum. If Everett prevails, the series will come down to three games.
In Wednesday’s 7-3 win, the Winterhawks got the jump on the Silvertips with a dominating second period. In the middle 20 minutes, Portland out shot Everett 13-2 and outscored the Silvertips 4-0 to lead 5-1.
“I thought we played a quicker game” in the second period, acting Winterhawks coach Travis Green said. “Our guys found their legs. I thought they used speed well to defend. And our forecheck was really good.”
All of that good work was partially undone in a 21-second span of the third period when the Silvertips forced Portland into turnovers that produced Everett goals 21 seconds apart to cut the margin to 5-3.
“We made a couple of really silly mistakes with the puck,” Green said, explaining that puck management mistakes often turn into goals for opponents in playoff games.
More than 13 minutes remained in Wednesday’s game when Everett climbed to within two goals, but Green said he never sensed his team was losing its focus.
A lucky goal a few seconds later restored a three-goal lead and took the steam from the Silvertips.
Derrick Pouliot flipped the puck into the air from center ice. Everett goalie Daniel Cotton tried to catch the puck, but had it bounce off his glove and over the goal line.
Green, who played 14 seasons in the NHL, couldn’t recall ever scoring such a goal — or seeing one like that.
“We got lucky there, and it was an unfortunate one for (Cotton),” Green said.
That wasn’t the only bit of bad luck for Everett on Wednesday, when a small audience announced at 2,000 showed up to watch Game 3. Manraj Hayer, a 19-year-old center and one of the leaders for the young Silvertips, suffered a broken finger on Wednesday. Everett interim coach Garry Davidson told the Everett Herald newspaper that Hayer is unlikely to play Friday or Saturday.
• Four Portland-area viewing parties are scheduled for Friday’s game. Kenton Station, 8303 N. Denver Ave., is the closest to Clark County. All ages are welcome.
• Portland went 3 for 5 on the power play in Game 3 and is 6 for 16 in the series, a league-leading 37.5 percent rate of success. Everett was 0 for 2 on Wednesday and is 1 of 8 through three games.
• Should both teams advance, Portland and Seattle will meet in the second round. The Thunderbirds lead the No. 2-seeded Kelowna Rockets 3-1. Game 5 of that series is on Saturday at Kelowna.