In the midst of playing three games in three nights, and after blowing a 4-2 third-period lead in Seattle on Friday, the Spokane Chiefs bounced back in a strong way Saturday night against the visiting Tri-City Americans.
Defenseman Ty Smith took a pass from Hudson Elynuik and roofed the game-winning goal at 4:09 of overtime to give the Chiefs a 4-3 victory. Spokane and Tri-City are tied for third place in the U.S. Division, though the Americans have three games in hand.
“(Elynuik) drove the net hard and made a couple great fakes and found me on the side,” Smith said of his game-winner. “I was pretty open and had a pretty clear shot and it just fell to the back of the net.”
It was Smith’s sixth goal of the season. He added an assist as well. Elynuik finished with a goal and two assists to lead Spokane.
The Chiefs peppered Tri-City goaltender Beck Warm with 44 shots and surrendered just 24 Tri-City shots. Spokane goaltender Dawson Weatherill returned to action for the first time sine Nov. 24, turning away 21 shots on net. He missed more than a month due to illness.
“I thought he stood tall for us,” Chiefs coach Dan Lambert said. “There’s no doubt that when you haven’t played that much hockey and haven’t had that much practice time it’s a tough situation to be in.”
The Chiefs opened the scoring just 56 seconds into the game when Elynuik fished the puck out of the crease and put it past Warm. Tri-City’s Sasha Mutala tied it at 2:26 of the first, and Jordan Topping gave the Americans a 2-1 lead at 14:45 of the first.
The game could have gone from bad to worse for the Chiefs in the second period. With Tri-City up 2-1, Elynuik began the period in the box after taking a goaltender interference penalty at the end of the first. Smith then played the puck out of play in his own zone just 27 seconds into the period and sat for a delay of game. That gave Tri-City a 5-on-3 power play for 1:23.
The Chiefs killed the Elynuik penalty, and soon after exiting the penalty box, Elynuik sent a pass to Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who was promptly taken down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot.
Anderson-Dolan connected on the penalty shot to tie the game at 2.
“It was a good play by (Elynuik) creating a play and getting me the loose puck,” Anderson-Dolan said. “I think I got tackled a little bit and was able to capitalize.”
The goal was huge for Spokane.
“If (Tri-City) scores on a five on three it’s a different game,” Lambert said. “I thought our guys battled really well to kill off that five on three.”
The Chiefs got a five-minute power play midway through the second period when Dylan Coghlan was sent off for slew footing. Riley Woods made the Americans pay when he directed a Tyson Helgesen shot past Warm, giving Spokane a 3-2 lead.
But Tri-City’s Morgan Geekie scored just seconds after the five-minute penalty expired when he put in his own rebound past Weatherill.
The teams were scoreless in the third period before Smith’s overtime winner in front of 8,119 fans.
It was a much-needed turnaround from Friday night’s third-period meltdown in Seattle.
“We were a little sharper tonight,” Smith said. “We can’t fall asleep and that’s what we did in Seattle and it came back to haunt us. It’s a lot easier coming into the third tied when you have great fans behind us.”
The Chiefs and Americans meet again tonight in Kennewick.