Down two goals in the second period, the Portland Winterhawks roared from behind to tie the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference finals at a game apiece.
Four second-period goals turned around the game as Portland beat the Kelowna Rockets 5-3 on Saturday at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia.
The Winterhawks outshot the Rockets 53-27, including 17-4 in the third period, as Portland controlled the second half of a game that was an almost exact reversal from Kelowna’s come-from-behind win in Game 1 on Friday.
“I know what they feel like in their dressing room,” said Portland GM/coach Mike Johnston. “You saw momentum shifts in (Game 1) and we tried to talk about that with our team. You want to recapture momentum all the time in playoffs, whether it’s game-to-game or shift-to-shift. Tonight, we were under some difficult circumstances and I thought we captured the momentum.”
Games 3 and 4 are on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Moda Center in Portland.
Five players registered goals for the Winterhawks, with the key burst coming midway through the second period when three Portland goals in less than three minutes put the visitors ahead to stay. Corbin Boes stopped all 15 shots he faced after replacing starter Brendan Burke early in the second period.
The game-changing outburst started with Nic Petan’s power-play goal 9:54 into the period. Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it 3-3 11:51 into the second period with his 12th goal of the playoffs, and just 13 seconds later Brendan Leipsic gave Portland the 4-3 lead finishing a quick rush. The Winterhawks outshot the Rockets 24-14 in the momentum-shifting second period.
Petan had a goal and two assists and Derrick Pouliot had three assists for the Winterhawks.
Portland’s third line scored two goals to help turn momentum to the Winterhawks.
Dominic Turgeon’s first career playoff goal 24 seconds into the second period opened Portland’s scoring and Alex Schoenborn scored from a tight angle 9:45 into the third period, giving Portland a two-goal lead.
Power-play goals by Nick Merkley and Riley Stadel 1:32 apart gave Kelowna a 2-0 lead at the end of one period. But the Rockets had only one brief power play the rest of the night.
Barely one minute after Turgeon scored for Portland at the start of the second period, Kelowna’s Madison Bowey made it 3-1 with a shot that deflected past Burke. Winterhawks coach Mike Johnston changed goalies, inserting the 20-year-old WHL veteran Boes.
Boes made several key stops early in the second period before the Winterhawks attack started controlling play.
“We weren’t happy with the way we finished last game, giving up (a 4-3) lead in the third period,” Leipsic said. “(In Game 2), we took a couple of penalties we didn’t need to take and they got a couple of power-play goals. But we regrouped; we’re a mature group and we’re sticking with it. As the (second period) went on, I thought we took over the game.”
Damon Severson hit the post with a shot during a brief Kelowna power play early in the third period. But that was the best scoring chance of the final 20 minutes for the Rockets. Schoenborn scored from a tough angle with 11:15 left in the third for a 5-3 Portland lead, and Kelowna took three penalties in the final seven minutes to help Portland finish off the victory.