The Portland Winterhawks were unable to find their fastest gear on Tuesday, but they rode plenty of grit and a bit of good luck to close within one win of another Western Hockey League playoff series victory.
Brendan Leipsic scored two goals and Chase De Leo netted the game winner as the Winterhawks beat the Victoria Royals 4-3 at Save On Foods Memorial Arena in British Columbia to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game 5 of the WHL Western Conference semifinal series is at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Moda Center in Portland.
Steven Hodges scored seven seconds into the third period to give Victoria a 3-2 lead. But, as has usually been the case in this series, the Royals’ lead did not last even two minutes.
Leipsic’s second goal of the night tied it 1:33 into the period, as he converted a rebound after Victoria goalie Patrik Polivka tried to glove a shot from Derrick Pouliot.
De Leo’s winner came at 8:05 of the third period in similar fashion. A shot from the point by Matt Dumba hit traffic and fell to De Leo, who patiently converted from the high slot.
Winterhawks goalie Brendan Burke stopped the final 12 Royals shots after Hodges’ blue-line blast beat him seconds into the third period. He made several big saves on chances for Ben Walker, and also came up big against Brandon McGee after a Portland turnover.
“I thought we showed a lot of character” coming from behind, Leipsic said.
Portland took a 2-1 lead midway through the second period as Leipsic poked home a goal through a pileup. But a short-handed goal from just inside the blue line by Taylor Crunk after his interception at center ice tied it at 17:11 of the period.
Penalties on Dumba and Nic Petan then gave Victoria 1:43 of two-man power play time late in the second period. But the Winterhawks killed that off as the Royals missed their one quality shot of the advantage.
The Winterhawks were 1 for 5 on the power play, with the one short-handed goal against. The Royals were 1 for 4 on the power play.
On their last power play, the Winterhawks ran a four-corner offense, wasting two minutes of the clock. But in the final minute, with an extra attacker on for their goalie, the Royals won a series of offensive zone faceoffs and created scrambles in front of Burke. On the best of those, Walker pushed the puck through the goal mouth off a faceoff win.
Each team scored once in the first period, both goals coming on unlikely bounces.
Tyler Soy put the Royals ahead 6:39 into the game, reaching a rebound off the back wall and scoring from a tough angle at the right post.
Adam Rossignol answered for Portland 1:27 later, scoring in a scramble as the puck deflected off the skate of Victoria’s Joe Hicketts.
Polivka, who finished with 34 saves, came up big twice on Portland’s second power-play of the first period, turning aside high-quality chances from Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Burke finished with 27 saves. Among the nine first-period saves for Burke were a couple of reaction stops to deny Austin Carroll after the Royals winger took a cross-ice pass on the doorstep.