PORTLAND — Peppering Kelowna goalie Jordon Cook with 65 shots and using their speed to keep the Rockets on their heals, the Portland Winterhawks took a 2-1 lead on Tuesday in the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference finals.
But it took a furious rally in the closing minutes of the third period and three dramatic saves from Portland goalie Corbin Boes in overtime to earn a riveting 4-3 win in front of a crowd of 9,259 at the Moda Center.
Taylor Leier’s spinning shot 10 minutes into overtime won it for Portland as the Winterhawks won a game the Rockets led by two goals late in the third period.
“I saw the forward lost his stick. I got it up front and I just tried to pull the puck around him and get it on net,” Leier said of the game-winner, which deflected in off a Kelowna player.
Game 4 is 7 p.m. Wednesday.
After spending most of Tuesday being turned away by a red-hot goalie, the Winterhawks scored twice in the final three minutes to force overtime. Oliver Bjorkstrand’s second goal of the night made it 3-2 Kelowna with 3:01 left and Brendan Leipsic tied it from a sharp angle with 1:18 left
Both of those goals came with Portland goalie Corbin Boes pulled for an extra skater. Bjorkstrand’s came with the Winterhawks skating six-on-four with a power play.
If not for the play of Kelowna goalie Jordon Cooke, Tuesday’s game would have been a rout. The Winterhawks had the Rockets on their heels for most of the night.
In regulation, Portland outshot Kelowna 59-28, including 20-7 in the third period. Add in five shots that hit goalposts, three breakaways stopped by Cooke, and several open-net misses, and the Winterhawks had chance upon chance to make quick work of Game 3.
When Ryan Olsen scored against the flow of play with 5:10 left, Kelowna led 3-1 and it looked as if Cooke’s heroics would be enough.
Winterhawks coach Mike Johnston praised his team’s poise and tenacity after Olsen’s goal.
“Our players on the bench knew we were getting our chances. We just had to stick with it,” Johnson said. “Once the first one fell the crowd was so into the game they gave us a big boost. I thought we were almost going to win the game in regulation there.”
As great as Cooke was all night, Boes was huge three times in overtime including a glove save on a Nick Merkley two-on-one chance with Marek Tvrdon.
“I just made a good read and pushed as hard as I could, and fortunately came up with a big save for the team,” Boes said.
Twice in the second period, Cooke stopped breakaway chances for Brendan Leipsic. But he could not stop the tying goal after a Derrick Pouliot shot bounced off the endboards to the side of the net.
“A couple more centimeters the other way, and it wouldn’t have been in. It bounced to the side of the net and I was lucky to just chip it over him,” Leipsic said.
Boes, making his first start of these playoffs, was busy early. It started with a Justin Kirkland two-on-one chance on the game’s first shift. Kelwona’s forecheck was effective in the opening minutes and led to the only goal of the opening period. Carter Rigby won the puck from Taylor Leier in the corner and sent a pass that found defenseman Riley Stadel moving into the high slot. With Cole Linaker drawing attention from two Hawks in front, Stadel shot the puck over Boes shoulder 2:22 into the game.
Portland had a five-on-three power play for 1:23 that produced three rockets from Matt Dumba, one of which caught the post.
Boes made a couple more big saves on in-tight chances before the Winterhawks started to gain more control of play over the second half of the first period.
Cooke stopped all 18 shots he faced in the first period. The best of those was a skate save when it appeared Leipsic would stuff the puck into an open net.