Only once in the regular season did the Spokane Chiefs take a lead into the third period and lose.
But just three games into the Western Hockey League playoffs they did it again, coughing up a three-goal advantage to lose when Kevin Sundher scored 3:20 into overtime to give Chilliwack a 4-3 win Wednesday night, shocking a crowd of 4,737.
“There was a turnover,” said Sundher, who scored the tying goal midway through the third period. “(Dylen) McKinlay jumped in and made a hit, turned the puck over. They were changing. I was surprised to see no one there. The Chiefs are a pretty disciplined team but they had a little breakdown there. Thankfully I was able to take advantage.”
Fortunately for the Chiefs, they still lead the best-of-7 series 2-1 with Game 4 tonight at the Arena and they haven’t lost back-to-back home games since early October.
However, it might not hurt them to recall the playoffs last year, when the NCAA men’s basketball tournament forced them to open on the road despite having earned home-ice advantage. They won two games in Portland before dropping three games – as well as Game 7 – at home.
“I thought we did it to ourselves,” Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said.
“We had a three-goal lead, we had a 5-minute power play. We didn’t get the job done. We let them hang around. Consequently went up taking a 4-minute minor, didn’t get it killed and the momentum switched to the other side.”
After taking a 2-0 lead in the first period, outshooting the Bruins 22-7, it took the Chiefs about half of the second period to regain the momentum. Then seldom-used defenseman Cole Hamblin, who had one goal in 12 regular-season games, dove in from the blue line and one-timed a pass from Levko Koper, who was on his knees. That goal, at 15:19, came as the Bruins were called for a delayed penalty.
After the goal Spokane got a 5-minute power play because Tyler Stahl, who also got a game misconduct, laid out Tyler Johnson behind the net with an elbow. The Chiefs put the pressure on but couldn’t get the puck past Lucas Gore. Johnson played the power play but didn’t return for the third period.
Nachbaur said Johnson, who led the league with 53 goals and had 115 points in the regular season, was questionable for tonight’s game.
Despite being outshot 45-13 through two periods, Sundher said the Bruins remained positive.
“We just have belief in ourselves,” he said. “Especially this point in the year, our backs are against the wall. (The shots) don’t really matter to us. They could pop 80 shots, we just want to win a game. Obviously, we don’t want to give up a lot of shots but at the end of the day we can’t look up and let that number affect us.”
Ryan Howse, who had 51 goals in the regular season, got the first goal in the comeback at 3:04 of the third period, ending James Reid’s shutout streak at 148 minutes. He put a high shot on goal and then banged home the rebound when the Chiefs whiffed on it.
“We got that bounce when Howser scored that first goal, it gave us some life,” Sundher said. “We weren’t playing very good up to that point. You get a bounce like that in playoffs, you’ve got to take advantage.”
Spokane’s Brady Brassart got a double-minor for checking from behind and Robin Soudek cashed in late after Brandon Magee sent the puck out front.
The tying goal at 11:44 came when McKinlay put a perfect pass on the stick of Sundher, who had 25 goals in the regular season, and he went backhand with a quick move.
The Chiefs took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Anthony Bardaro and Johnson.
Bardaro’s first playoff goal, at 8:33, was one of the prettiest of the season. He picked up the puck along the left wall, skated deep, went around the first defenseman, bore in on goal and went right on by before flipping a backhand in.
Bruins 4, Chiefs 3 (OT)
First Period—1, Spokane, Bardaro 1 (Miller, Brassart), 8:33. 2, Spokane, Johnson 2 (Koper, Vanscourt), 11:06. Second Period—3, Spokane, Hamblin 1 (Koper, Johnson), 15:19. Third Period—4, Chilliwack, Howse 1 (Horak), 3:04. 5, Chilliwack, Soudek 1 (Magee, Sundher), 9:22 (PP). 6, Chilliwack, Sundher 1 (McKinlay), 11:44. Overtime—7, Chilliwack, Sundher 2, 3:20. Power-play Opp.—Chilliwack 1 of 4; Spokane 0 of 2. Saves—Chilliwack, Gore 20-22-9-3—54. Spokane, Reid 7-6-8-0—21. A—4,737.