The Spokane Chiefs must now use the Kelowna Rockets as inspiration.
After Portland’s 3-1 win at the Arena on Tuesday night, the Chiefs must win four consecutive games against the Winterhawks to advance in the Western Hockey League playoffs.
The chore will be daunting, but Kelowna showed it’s possible in the first round of the playoffs this season, storming back from a 0-3 deficit against Seattle.
“We know it can happen,” said Ty Rattie, who scored Portland’s first goal Tuesday. “The fourth one’s the hardest to win and we’re looking to get that done tomorrow.”
“The bottom line is you can’t give up,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “You take it one game at a time, one period at a time.”
Spokane played its best game of the series, giving up an empty-net goal with 15 seconds left in what was otherwise a one-goal game.
But the Winterhawks continued to clamp down on the Chiefs’ offense. Portland has held Spokane to one goal in the last 152 minutes, 37 seconds of the series.
“We’re getting chances, we’re just not bearing down,” said Chiefs right wing Blake Gal, whose power-play goal at 16:24 of the second period snapped Spokane’s scoreless streak of 129:01. “At least we know the chances are there.”
“We haven’t made many plays in this series,” Nachbaur said. “Part of that is we’re too eager to throw it away … too many turnovers and not taking them on in certain situations.”
Portland has outscored Spokane 13-3 in the series. Counting the regular season, the Winterhawks are 10-2 against the Chiefs this season, including seven consecutive wins.
“Spokane’s a very good team and we know that,” Winterhawks center Chase De Leo said. “They compete harder than any team we’ve played. We have to play tomorrow’s game like we’re down 3-0. We’re not looking ahead.”
Goalies Mac Carruth of Portland and Eric Williams of Spokane dominated the first period with several good saves, including stops by both on 4-on-2 plays. Rattie beat Williams top-shelf with 47 seconds left in the period for his 10th goal of the postseason.
Nic Petan, who assisted on Rattie’s goal, also scored top-shelf at 8:01 of the second period after making a nifty move to his right.
Gal’s team-leading sixth goal of the playoffs came 4 seconds after De Leo was penalized for slashing.
“That obviously gave us life,” Gal said. “We needed to get that one past Carruth because he’s playing a hell of a series right now. So maybe that will give us some life for the next game.”
The Winterhawks had a goal disallowed with 13:16 left for an illegal pass.
Spokane pulled Williams with 1:30 left. The Chiefs couldn’t get the equalizer and Taylor Leier scored the empty-netter.
“I think it was right there for us to win,” Nachbaur said. “All we had to do was give a little push back.”
“Spokane played hard tonight,” Portland coach Travis Green said. “We knew we’d get their best game of the series so far.”
If the Chiefs win tonight, Game 5 will be at the Rose Garden on Saturday night.