KENNEWICK – With every line contributing a goal and the back line playing suffocating defense the Spokane Chiefs regained home-ice advantage in their second-round playoff series with a 4-1 win over the Tri-City Americans Tuesday night in the Toyota Center.
“I’m not sure we carried the play, but we played a style that was good for us and we had some good results,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “We had to get back in this series and that was a good way to do it.”
The Chiefs lead the best-of-7 Western Hockey League series 2-1 with Game 4 here on Thursday.
The Chiefs were dominating in the first 10 minutes but only came out with a 1-0 lead. The Dominik Uher goal came early, just 1:37 in, when he spun and snapped a wrist shot from the right circle into the top right corner over Drew Owsley’s glove.
“We got outplayed for the second consecutive game,” Americans coach Jim Hiller said. “They scored early, which is what we did in Spokane that first game. It set us on our heels and we never recovered.”
The Chiefs outshot the Americans 41-21 and the disparity in chances was about the same.
“They have a lot of scorers,” Chiefs defenseman Davis Vandane said. “You have to move the puck, keep it going, stay solid on the walls and always keep your feet moving.”
Even carrying the play the Chiefs didn’t build on that lead until near the midway point of the second period when they collected a pair of rebound goals 2:45 apart.
It started when Blake Gal banged in a rebound of a Corbin Baldwin shot from the point. The power-play goal at 8:50 came after a 37-second 5-on-3 expired. Next Anthony Bardaro led a 3-on-2 into the Tri-City end. He fed Levko Koper for a hard shot that rebounded off Owsley right to Kenton Miller, who had an open net.
Tri-City got on the board at 12:08 when Neal Prokop blasted a slap shot from the left circle past James Reid. The Americans followed that up with a great shift and several chances, but then a pair of penalties, less than a minute apart, allowed the Chiefs to regain the momentum. Despite six shots, including three when they had a two-man advantage for 1:11, they didn’t cash in.
“I thought we played real solid without the puck,” Nachbaur said. “We didn’t give up a lot of glaring mistakes. When we did, we were there to recover. The one we weren’t we gave up a goal. It was a good effort by our guys.”
The chances kept coming for the Chiefs, but cashing in was a different matter.
“In playoffs you’re going to get goaltending,” Nachbaur said. “We misfired on a couple of them, Owsley was good on quite a few of those, but that’s playoffs. In regular season I’d be mad but it’s intense out there. When you’re intense, sometimes you lose your hands.
“We didn’t give up a lot. We created a lot. We had a lot of good opportunities.”
With less than 3 minutes left Nachbaur rolled his fourth line out and Mike Aviani found Darren Kramer out front for the clincher.
“We’ve got four good lines,” Miller said. “We can rely on any of them.”
Tri-City was without defenseman Tyler Schmidt, serving a one-game suspension for a game misconduct in Game 2. It might have hurt more on offense with the Americans getting just two shots on five power plays.
“There is no way to gauge that but it has an impact, that’s for sure,” Hiller said.
“We had a tough time generating opportunities. … We challenged our guys. We need to make plays. … It’s time for us to be extremely desperate.”