Giants edge Chiefs to force Game 7 in Vancouver
If you think about it, the Spokane Chiefs and Vancouver Giants have already played a seventh game in their Western Conference semifinal series.
Their quadruple-overtime marathon Friday night in Vancouver, British Columbia, went more than twice the length of a regulation game before Blake Gal scored the game-winning goal to give Spokane the win and put the Chiefs in position to close out the series Sunday night at home.
In theory, the devastating loss could have made it tough on the Giants in terms of regrouping for the survival game Sunday. But it wasn’t, and now the Giants and Chiefs are headed for a true Game 7 on Tuesday night in Vancouver after Evander Kane scored in double overtime to give the Giants a series-tying 3-2 Western Hockey League playoff win in front of a large Sunday night crowd of 6,711 at the Arena.
Kane’s game-winning goal came 5 minutes, 31 seconds into the second overtime. Kane and James Wright, who scored the Giants’ first two goals of the game, were on a 2-on-1 rush into Spokane’s zone.
Wright had the puck in the right circle and couldn’t get a true shot off with Chiefs defenseman Mike Reddington in his way, so instead he got the puck to Kane in the low slot. Forward Mitch Wahl chased down Kane, but it was too late. Spokane goalie Dustin Tokarski didn’t have time to get his body in the way of the puck as it slid across the goal line.
“The pass was made in the neutral zone off one of our sticks and our guys were getting ready to forecheck moving north when the puck started to go south. They made a pretty good play 2-on-1 and ultimately Kane put it in the net,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “Not a perfect play by any stretch but at the same time it wasn’t real characteristic of our guys either, so we just have to learn from it and play Game 7.”
The game didn’t appear to be heading to overtime as time wound down in the third period.
The Chiefs took a 1-0 lead early in the first period when Tyler Johnson wristed in a shot from the left side of the net after Wahl made a short pass to Johnson from the right of the crease.
After a scoreless, penalty-free second period, Vancouver finally got on the board when Jonathon Blum’s shot from the right circle deflected off Wright’s shoulder and past Tokarski 3:07 into the third period. Wright scored again – intentionally this time – at 11:03 after Kane threw a perfect backdoor pass into the low slot, where Wright blasted a shot past Tokarski.
The game-tying goal came 18:36 into the final period in regulation when Stefan Ulmer threw a hockey Hail Mary shot from the right point at Vancouver’s net. The puck deflected off a Vancouver defenseman’s stick before sailing over the right shoulder of Giants goalie Tyson Sexsmith.
“We thought we had chances tonight to score and then it didn’t happen,” Sauter said. “(Ulmer’s shot) was sort of a reckless attempt to put the puck in deep and it ended up going in, but we’ll take those.”
And, of course, they’ll take their tired bodies back across the state and into British Columbia to take on the Giants one last time in a battle of the past two Memorial Cup champions. The game is at 7 on Tuesday and will be televised live on Comcast channel 79.
“We have to go in to Vancouver and win a hockey game,” Tokarski said. “It was an evenly-matched game. We had our chances in overtime, they just capitalized. We’ve just got to get back up on the horse and ready to go. We’ve won there before – we can do it again.”
The winner of Tuesday’s game will move on to face the Kelowna Rockets in the conference final. Kelowna eliminated Tri-City with a 6-2 victory Sunday for a 4-2 series win.
The Chiefs were 0 for 4 on the power play, including one in the second overtime when Kane was called for slashing Tokarski. Vancouver was scoreless on one power-play opportunity. … The Chiefs will depart this morning for Vancouver.
Giants 3, Chiefs 2 (2OT)
First Period—1, Spokane, Johnson 5 (Wahl, Koper), 5:38. Second Period—None. Third Period—2, Vancouver, Wright 2 (Blum, Bouma), 3:07. 3, Vancouver, Wright 3 (Kane), 11:03. 4, Spokane, Ulmer 2 (Wahl, Koper), 18:36. First Overtime—None. Second Overtime—5, Vancouver, Kane 4 (Wright), 5:31.
Power-play Opp.—Vancouver 0 of 1; Spokane 0 of 4. Saves—Vancouver, Sexsmith 7-7-7-7-3—31. Spokane, Tokarski 7-6-11-10-3—37. A—6,711.