Two goals, 3 seconds shy of being a pair of short-handed tallies, would seem to make for a pretty good game, but Tyler Johnson was talking about some seemingly impossible misses that kept him from a hat trick.
And that was why 6,479 fans at the Arena were on the edge of their seats throughout Friday night’s Western Hockey League game with Edmonton before the Chiefs pulled out a 4-3 victory.
“I’d say I probably had about 5 percent shooting so I probably missed roughly 20,” Johnson said, shaking his head. “It wasn’t a great night for me. A few went in, but I’m getting chances so that’s always a positive. Hopefully, one of these days they’re going to start going in …”
But if the goal was the size of a golf hole for Johnson, James Reid was seeing beach balls, coming up with some huge plays among his 37 saves back on home ice for the first time in more than two weeks.
“We got fortunate we got those two points,” Johnson said. “Reider played outstanding. He really won that game …”
Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur was more emphatic.
“That’s not the same game we had on the road,” he said. “In my experience, anybody’s experience who has been in the league as long as we have, when you go on the road, you come back you find yourself a little flat. We had some guys that didn’t perform up to par. … But it’s two points; it’s a big two points in the standings. It wasn’t our finest performance, but tip your hat to Reider. He. Was. Outstanding. The difference.”
The Chiefs (9-8-1-1, 19 points), who face Tri-City (11-6-1,1, 24) tonight at the Arena, took a 2-0 lead out of a wild first period, getting goals from Johnson at 9:19 and Anthony Bardaro at 17:36. Johnson’s goal came just after a Spokane penalty expired.
Johnson gave the Chiefs an early boost in the second period, hitting the top-left corner on a short-handed breakaway, his ninth goal tying Levko Koper for the team lead. But after that the Oil Kings (7-12-0-1, 15) turned up the heat. By the 9:40 mark, when Travis Ewanyk put Edmonton on the board, the Oil Kings had outshot the Chiefs 17-1 in the period, but Reid continued to come up with some big saves. Spokane regained momentum and only entered the third period trailing 28-24 in shots.
“I think they got their first shot like 10 seconds in,” Reid said. “That’s always nice for me. It was a longer shot, I saw it the whole way. From there I felt pretty confident. Some of my rebounds weren’t real great so I kind of had to make those bigger saves. Yeah, it was a good performance.”
Early in the third period, the Oil Kings pulled within one on a goal by Dylan Wruck. Fortunately for the Chiefs, Edmonton went to 0 for 7 on the power play before Koper’s power-play goal at 17:49 proved to be the difference. With 31 seconds left and the goalie pulled on a power play, Jordan Hickmott made it 4-3.
Along the way, Johnson kept missing, or getting robbed and the hat trick just wasn’t to be.
“I don’t think of anything like that,” he said. “As soon as I got that second one I was trying to keep going, trying to win the game. A lot of times I thought it was going to go in and it just didn’t. I think I’m in my own head a little bit right now. I just have to relax and play hockey.