That’s a blip on the radar in a 60-minute hockey game, but 7 seconds is all it took for the Spokane Chiefs to go from being on their way to tying their first-round playoff series with the Portland Winterhawks to being down 3-1 in the series and on the ropes as the teams had back to Portland.
Joachim Blichfeld scored goals 7 seconds apart in the third period to turn a 3-2 Chiefs lead into a 4-3 Portland advantage. The Winterhawks held on to take a comfortable lead in the series.
Chiefs coach Dan Lambert focused on the positives, despite the heartbreaking defeat.
“We were good tonight,” Lambert said. “I thought we played the way we needed to play. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result we were looking for, but at the end of the day if that’s our effort every night, I will take that every day of the week. I’m proud of the guys, the way they pushed. There was no quit in their game ever.”
After Wednesday’s 3-1 loss, the team admitted it needed to make things harder on Portland goaltender Cole Kehler. That meant guys crashing the net, screening Kehler and causing havoc in front.
That was evident Thursday night on Spokane’s first two goals.
Hudson Elynuik scored at 9 minutes, 1 second of the first on the power play off a rebound in front of Kehler. Eli Zummack then deflected a Tyson Helgesen shot from the point to give Spokane an early 2-0 lead.
Alex Overhardt got Portland on the board at 17:39 of the first period to cut Spokane’s lead in half.
The teams played a scoreless second period, though it wasn’t without chances. Spokane had a 4-on-3 power play, but the closest it got to gaining a comfortable lead was a Kailer Yamamoto shot that rang off the post.
Skyler McKenzie tied the game in the third when he tipped in a shot from Henri Jokiharju.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan helped Spokane regain the lead when he scored on the power play at 9:50 of the third.
But soon, Blichfeld had his 7 seconds of glory and the Chiefs left the ice down three games to one.
“I’ll keep saying it, just take the positive,” Anderson-Dolan said. “We played a really good game tonight. I thought we were the better team.”
The Chiefs looked like a different team from Wednesday’s lackluster loss. Lambert reshuffled the forward lines and even scratched defenseman Filip Kral, the team’s rookie of the year.
“We can certainly say it worked but at the end of the day, we didn’t get the win,” Lambert said. “The effort, compete and will was certainly there.”
Dawson Weatherill stopped 20 shots, getting his first start of the series after playing backup to Bailey Brkin.
“This has been Dawson’s team all year long,” Lambert said. “He felt ready to go and we certainly knew and believed that he deserved the opportunity. He played very well for us.”
The Chiefs head to Portland for Saturday’s Game 5 with their season on the line. They’ve won in Portland before and will have to do it again.
“There’s no panic in our dressing room and we’re confident we can push this series to seven games,” Anderson-Dolan said.
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