The Spokane Chiefs might not count their lines, but they can certainly count their rallies.
For a third straight game the Chiefs trailed entering the third period but pulled out a victory.
The victim this time was Saskatoon, which fell 5-3 before 4,918 fans at the Arena on Friday night, making the Chiefs 6-0 at home and the Blades 1-4-0-1 in a five-game U.S. Division swing.
What would likely be considered the fourth line rallied the Chiefs, with center Mike Aviani setting up Marek Kalus twice to tie the game.
“I don’t really put numbers on it,” said Aviani, who started the game centering the third line and ended up on the fourth in a center swap. “Coach says before the game we have four first lines, so we’re all going to play like first-liners. We’re all going to play as hard as we can. It was fun.”
It was really the fourth straight come-from-behind win, but in the first the Chiefs made up a two-goal deficit in the second period before scoring the only goal of the third. Three of the four rallies were against Eastern Division visitors.
And it was the second straight game they had a three-goal third period to win, doing the same thing to Everett, tonight’s visitor in the sixth game of a seven-game homestand, last Saturday.
“We knew this game was going to be a challenge,” Saskatoon coach Lorne Molleken said. “Spokane’s a real good hockey club that plays a very aggressive style. We were fortunate to be in this game. Our goaltender was outstanding. We gave them a number of breakaways that shouldn’t happen.”
The Chiefs (6-2-0-1, 13 points) Czech-mated the Blades (7-4-0-1, 15), as their Czech Republic imports scored the tying and winning goals in the third period.
Kalus scored a short-handed goal at 4:41 and Dominik Uher notched the winner with 2:56 to play before Blake Gal added an empty-netter.
In both cases, the setup was the bigger play.
Aviani stole the puck at center ice, setting up a 2-on-1. Kalus missed the first shot but quickly got his rebound and beat Andrey Makarov, who finished with 34 saves.
The duo had hooked up late in the second period to make it a one-goal game. Aviani dug the puck out of the corner and took it to the net before Kalus notched his first goal.
“It was real easy because Mike Aviani had a great game,” Kalus said. “I’m happy to play with him.”
“They were our first line tonight,” Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said. “Our oldest guys were not our best players today. … That’s going to happen in hockey games, where your best guys aren’t your best. That’s where your support guys have to step up … ”
Uher was standing in front when defenseman Tanner Mort fired from a sharp angle on the winner.
“It seems like we’ve been playing our best hockey in the third period,” Aviani said. “Tanner Mort won us the game. He was so smart. He came down the wall and threw it at the net … our coach stresses funnel the puck at the net.”
The Blades took a 2-0 lead after one period on a pair of power-play goals. Jesse Paradis was given credit for redirecting a harmless looking shot by Connor Cox early in the first period. Late in the period, Mac Engel stopped a shot but couldn’t find the puck and Michael Burns poked it into the net.
The Chiefs got on the board 5 seconds into a second-period power play when Darren Kramer, planted in front, redirected an Anthony Bardaro centering pass. It was the captain’s seventh goal.
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