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Offense -- and series lead -- disappear as Winterhawks fall 2-0 at Edmonton

Suddenly, the Portland Winterhawks' explosive offense has disappeared and the Western Hockey League championship series has become quite an interesting affair.

Edmonton beat Portland 2-0 Wednesday in Game 4 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta to even the best-of-seven series 2-2.

The Winterhawks suffered their first shutout of the 2013-14 season — also their first since Dec. 11, 2011 — and stretched their scoreless streak to 116 minutes, 30 seconds, going back to the opening moments of Game 3.

Portland still has home-ice advantage. The pivotal fifth game will be 7 p.m. Friday at Moda Center, followed by Game 6 at 3 p.m. PT Sunday in Edmonton. A Game 7, if necessary, has been scheduled for Monday night at Memorial Coliseum — not Moda Center — because the Trail Blazers will be playing San Antonio there in the NBA playoffs.

Portland, now 42-5 since Jan. 11 after its second consecutive loss, hadn't lost consecutive games since losing four in a row from Dec. 31 to Jan. 4 with a depleted lineup.

"They carried the momentum of the game for the majority," captain Taylor Leier said. "We didn't have much resiliency."

Portland scored early and won the first two games of the series, and then led 2-0 after 3:30 of Game 3 on goals by Chase De Leo and Matthew Dumba. But, how things have turned. The Oil Kings rallied to win Game 3 3-2, and then beat the Winterhawks in convincing fashion in Game 4.

Goaltender Tristan Jarry, a Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick, stopped 26 shots — the Portland offense only generated five shots in the second period, when Mitch Moroz capped the Oil Kings' 14-shot attack with the first goal of the game off an end-board rebound at 8:40, beating goalie Corbin Boes.

Down only a goal, the Winterhawks had some moments in the third period, but couldn't beat Jarry. Curtis Lazar, off an up-ice rush, netted Edmonton's second goal at 6:17. The Hawks had only eight shots in the third period, and finished being outshot 37-26.

"We didn't have to battle back," said Moroz, referring to Portland's 7-0 first-period tally through three games. "It's nice to get the lead. I thought we played our game. Stuck with it, patient."

Jarry credited his teammates. "They were taking care of the rebounds for me. That was the key to our game tonight," he said.

What has happened? Edmonton has played its structured game with sound defense, but Portland going scoreless with very few chances? The Hawks have sported arguably the WHL's best offensive team the past four seasons, and scored the most goals in the WHL regular-season since the Portland team of 1997-98.

And, once clicking at nearly 30 percent during Portland's epic stretch of play, the power play was 0 for 3 Wednesday and is 0 for 11 in the past three games.

"It's playoff hockey, everybody understands that," said Mike Johnston, general manager and coach. "Goals are harder to come by. There are moments there's adversity we have to handle. I thought we had good chances tonight. Jarry was good on those.

"We'll continue to get our chances; we will convert. We have to regroup. It's a 2-of-3 series now. Whoever grabs the momentum is probably going to capture the series."

The momentum has shifted to Edmonton, which holds it firmly, although Portland still has home-ice advantage.

"I don't have any concerns," Johnston adds. "We knew it was a hard series. They were tighter games (in Portland) than what the score indicated. It's a good series. As a group, we have a lot of confidence at home."

Interestingly, the Winterhawks activated and played new defenseman Blake Heinrich, 18, for the game. His season with the U.S. Hockey League's Sioux City Musketeers concluded and, by WHL rule, he'll be eligible to play six games for the Hawks — yes, even in the playoffs.

But, defense wasn't an issue. The Hawks withstood some pretty consistent Oil Kings pressure, and Boes stopped 35 shots. It was the offense, and the lack of discipline — Edmonton had seven power plays, going 0 for 7, which included man advantages off three consecutive Brendan Leipsic minors in the second period.

The Hawks return home, where they haven't lost since early January.

"We have to have a hot start Friday night," Leier said, "and our older guys and leaders have to lead by example. We need to outwork the Oil Kings, and work off our fans."

Said Edmonton coach Derek Laxdal: "Hopefully we can take this form to Portland. ... We need to focus on a 60-minute effort. If we play our certain way, we're pretty confident with our style."

Said Moroz: "We know it's going to be hostile (in Portland) as always. That barn will be bumping. It starts with 'Jars.' He's been solid the whole playoffs. You're starting to see the type of goalie he is and the impact he has on games."