It was just like old times – and that isn’t good.
Brendan Leipsic skated down the left slot and fired a high shot past James Reid at 7 minutes, 44 seconds of overtime Wednesday to give the Portland Winterhawks a 3-2 win over the Spokane Chiefs and a 2-1 lead in their best-of-7 Western Hockey League playoff series.
It was the fifth straight playoff win at the Arena for Portland, dating back to last year when the Winterhawks knocked the Chiefs out in the first round by winning four games in Spokane.
And like a weekend series with Portland here at the start of the season, the Chiefs suffered a power outage, failing to take advantage of nine power-play chances. When they lost a pair of one-goal games, they missed on 17 man-advantage opportunities.
Game 4 of the Western Conference finals is in Spokane Friday night. The teams will turn around and hustle to Portland for Game 5 on Saturday.
Leipsic’s second playoff goal stunned a crowd of 5,542 at the Arena.
“Riley Boychuk made a nice play,” Leipsic said. “He chipped it behind the defenseman and we got an odd-man rush. I just put it over him.”
Portland forced the overtime by getting desperate in the final half-dozen minutes of the third period. Ryan Johansen found the puck out front during a scramble and got it past Reid for his ninth of the playoffs and third of this series.
The Chiefs had the lead for more than 9 minutes. Levko Koper held on to a rebound of a Jared Cowen shot, patiently waiting for an opening before shooting the puck past Mac Carruth for a 2-1 lead at 8:40 of the third period.
“We had enough chances to win tonight,” Koper said. “We have to continue to do that. We all worked hard, (but) the bounces didn’t go our way. We just have to stick with it.”
They’ll have to find a way to make the power play work. The Chiefs led the league during the regular season with a 26.7 percent success rate but that had dwindled to 22.7 percent before the night’s 0-for-9 effort.
“We just couldn’t get the puck to the net enough,” Spokane defenseman Brendan Kichton said. “Not enough battles in front of the net. We started off pretty good on the first couple power plays, then it seemed to get away from us.
“(Frustration) played a little bit, but still we have to stick with the plan, keep with it, and hopefully good things will come.”
“Decisions,” Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said. “The end result is we’re not executing and their penalty kill is strong.”
Portland was 0-2 in a pair of second-period power plays.
The Chiefs scored first again, late in the first period, and again, that lead didn’t last long.
After both teams missed some chances early, Spokane finally scored when a rebound from a Tyler Johnson shot bounced out to Cowen. He glided in and fired a shot at Carruth, sliding it just inside the left post, though the goal light didn’t go on the referee saw the puck in the net.
But just 66 seconds after that goal at 15:07, after the Winterhawks took a penalty, Taylor Peters turned a giveaway at the left point by Corbin Baldwin into a breakaway. Reid made the stop but couldn’t halt his momentum going back or the puck dribbling into the goal.
The Chiefs missed the net several times and hit a post three times while throwing 17 shots at Carruth. Reid had several big saves facing odd-man rushes, including Ty Rattie on the second shift of the game and Leipsic.
The second period was scoreless, but it was Reid and his teammates that kept it that way. Reid made two spectacular saves late, robbing Rattie with his glove and stoning Sven Bartschi on a penalty shot. The Chiefs, after fanning on three first-period power-play opportunities, whiffed on four more, including 21 seconds of a 5-on-3, and took a 19-second two-man advantage into the third period.
The Chiefs pushed their shot advantage up to 40-20 before Portland charged back.
“It’s a 3-2 game, we had opportunities to score and we didn’t covert,” Nachbaur said. “I thought we had a lot of good time in their end in the overtime, yet we didn’t get the job done. We had a rebound and the goalie down and out and we didn’t bury it. But give them credit. With all the power plays we had, we let them hang around.”
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