Reid Gow made an interesting point: First and foremost, the Spokane Chiefs just needed to relax.
In doing so on Wednesday night, the Chiefs took a big step in the right direction in the battle for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Western Hockey League playoffs.
Gow’s second goal of the season – which came with 47 seconds left in the third period as time expired on a Spokane power play – counted as the winner as the Chiefs beat the Kamloops Blazers 6-4 in front of 4,530 fans at the Arena.
The Chiefs (37-24-5-4), who have struggled on the power play, were 1 for 3 when skating with the advantage – as Gow’s goal hit the back of the net just after the third power play expired and 3 for 3 on the penalty kill.
“We just stopped worrying about it,” the defenseman said. “We stopped being concerned about not scoring and relaxed. We can all make plays like any other team. I think we’ve just been concerned about not scoring so much that it just gets to us and we make stupid plays.
“We’re a lot better than that.”
The Chiefs backed that statement up against the Blazers (46-19-2-3), who are locked in as the second seed out of the Western Conference – and Gow’s goal showcased the “team” game Spokane has to play in order to win.
Gow sniped a shot in from inside the blue line thanks to an unselfish play by Brenden Kichton – who could have taken the shot and potentially picked up a hat trick after scoring goals in the first and second periods. The feed from Kichton to Gow wouldn’t have been possible, however, had Mike Aviani not done the setup work in the corner.
“Without his effort – keeping the puck alive and winning a battle with a good stick and a good body, separating the guy, and getting it up top – we don’t score,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “A lot of heart and passion from Mike on that play, and that doesn’t go unnoticed.”
Neither did Spokane’s improvement on special teams.
Although it was just one game, the noticeable progress on the power play and penalty kill was something that needed to happen as Spokane heads into its final two games of the regular season.
“We went nose-to-nose with them in a lot of areas,” Nachbaur said. “Our power play has struggled and struggled and we did some good things. We shot the puck and got bodies to the net and we needed that.”
“Special teams are just that – they have to be special, and if they’re not you’re not going anywhere,” he added. “We stumbled for so long, it’s been a growing concern, but we did good things tonight.”
The teams traded goals in the first two periods.
Kichton scored first for Spokane, firing in a power-play goal from the blue line in the first period, and Bronson Maschmeyer scored the equalizer for Kamloops as the teams finished the period tied 1-1.
Kichton scored again in the second for Spokane, as did Darren Kramer and Dylan Walchuk – but Kamloops also scored three goals in the period to force a 4-4 tie heading into the final period.
After Gow scored the winner, Dominik Uher – on a feed from Blake Gal – scored an empty-net goal with one second remaining.
Spokane hosts Seattle on Friday and wraps up the regular season on Saturday in Tri-City.
The Chiefs and first-round playoff opponent Vancouver are tied in the standings with 83 points, and each team has two games remaining. If they remain tied, Vancouver will win the tiebreaker with more overall wins this season.