History aside, Chiefs not ready to panic
If Don Nachbaur is right, there’s no need to panic.
But then again, Nachbaur wasn’t the coach last year when the Portland Winterhawks won four playoff games at the Arena to end the Spokane Chiefs’ Western Hockey League season prematurely.
And danged if they aren’t at it again.
Portland rallied for a 3-2 win in overtime Wednesday night at the Arena to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference finals.
“That’s one game,” Nachbaur said. “You can’t get disappointed; there’s still lots of hockey to play.”
True, Game 4 is tonight, but this home ice disadvantage is getting to be a concern.
When the Winterhawks won those four playoff games in Spokane last year, that gave them eight straight wins at the Arena, a streak they stretched to 10 early this season. The Chiefs won the next two here but Portland won the last one in the regular season as well.
Of course it’s not just on the Chiefs.
The Winterhawks are now 6-0 on the road in the playoffs this year, 13-1 over two seasons.
But the Chiefs didn’t sound spooked or panicked Wednesday night after Brendan Leipsic’s goal at 7:44 of overtime decided the third consecutive one-goal game in this series.
“We just have to stick with it,” defenseman Brenden Kichton said. “We have to finish our chances. We had so many chances, wide open nets that we’re not converting.”
The Chiefs came up empty in nine power play chances, all in the first two periods,, including a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities that added up to about 40 seconds.
“First off, you don’t want to take that many penalties,” Portland coach Mike Johnston said. “I thought we were undisciplined on a couple and I thought the refs were really off on a few of the calls.”
Winterhawks center Taylor Peters, who had a key first-period short-handed goal, said. “We’ve been caught a couple times when we get those kind of penalties, just one after the other. Our penalty kill is used to that, actually, but we came through big today. It’s come through a lot in these playoffs.”
It was similar to two early-season games here, when Portland won one-goal games while blanking the Chiefs on 17 power plays.
“That was really early in the year, they were missing players and we were missing players, some key guys,” Johnston said. “I don’t look back too much at stats or tends from the season because it’s playoff hockey.
“You’ve got two very good teams. They’re really close and that’s the way the series is going to be – hard fought.”
But the power plays weren’t the only opportunities missed as they out-shot the Winterhawks 43-32.
“That’s skill,” Nachbaur explained. “You have to bear down when you have a chance with the puck, make the right decision, whether to go high or go low, and the puck’s in the back of the net.”
The Chiefs are going to need to bury those chances or the Winterhawks will be burying them shortly.