Giants down Chiefs
VANCOUVER, B.C. — Garry Nunn’s power play goal at 6:40 of the third period sparked the Vancouver Giants to a 3-1 victory over the Spokane Chiefs in the opening game of their WHL second-round playoff series Friday night.
Mike Piluso also scored and Craig Cunningham added an empty-netter with only 43.9 seconds left in the game for the Giants before a white-towel waving crowd of 8,920 at the Pacific Coliseum as Vancouver remained undefeated in the 2008-09 postseason.
Mitch Wahl replied for Spokane.
The Giants, who finished first in the Western Conference in the regular season, outshot the Chiefs 39-19. But Vancouver goaltender Tyson Sexsmith was still forced to make a number of difficult saves in a duel of two of the WHL’s top goaltenders.
Spokane goaltender Dustin Tokarski, who backstopped Canada to a world junior title in January after Sexsmith was cut during training camp for the second year in a row, made 36 saves to keep the score close as the Chiefs were badly outplayed after a strong start.
The series is a repeat of last spring’s second-round matchup, when the Chiefs ousted the Giants in six games en route to WHL and Memorial Cup titles. This marks the first time in 16 seasons that the last two Memorial Cup champions are meeting in a playoff series.
In 1993, the Kamloops Blazers, coached by Giants bench boss Don Hay, faced off against Spokane.
Vancouver scored once on four power-play opportunities while Spokane went one-for-three with the man advantage.
Piluso gave the Giants a 1-0 lead 16:56 into the game as he backhanded in a cross-ice pass from Lance Bouma.
Vancouver held a decisive 13-6 edge in shots in the second period but generated few dangerous scoring chances. Sexsmith helped to keep the period scoreless by robbing Trevor Glass on a one-timer from the side of the net.
Wahl tied the game at 1-1 on a power play at 4:44 of the third period as his shot from behind the net went in off Giants defenceman Mike Berube. The goal came after Vancouver’s Nick Ross was penalized for interference behind the play.
However, Nunn gave the Giants the lead for good on a power play of their own less than two minutes later as he deflected in Jon Blum’s point shot.
The Chiefs had a chance to tie on a power play after Giants defenceman Ross took his third penalty of the night for clipping as he felled Drayson Bowman with a below-the-knee hip check. But the Giants killed the penalty with relative ease before Cunningham closed out the scoring with Tokarski pulled in favour of a sixth attacker. Vancouver outshot Spokane 13-4 in the third.
The second game of the series goes Saturday night in Vancouver.