The Portland Winterhawks don't need to think back very far to find hope.
Sure, they are in a 3-1 hole to the Spokane Chiefs in their first-round Western Hockey League playoff series after consecutive overtime losses at home.
But after Adam Beckman's power-play goal lifted Spokane to a 4-3 win Wednesday in front of 4,741 fans at Memorial Coliseum, the Winterhawks were focusing on how well they played.
"I think there's a lot of positives in that game. That was pretty close to what we want," veteran defenseman Brendan De Jong said. "Obviously, there's little breakdowns. But I think we played a really good, strong game tonight, and I think we're going to carry that over (to Game 5)."
They can also take heart from last season, when the script was flipped but Spokane pushed the best-of-7 series to the limit after falling behind 3-1.
There is one more reason for optimism: Cody Glass is expected back for Saturday's 7 p.m. Game 5 at Spokane.
None of that, or course, makes Wednesday's outcome any less frustrating after the Winterhawks played their most complete game of the series but still saw a two-goal lead disappear in the third period before the Chiefs won in overtime.
"We played really well. All we have to do is play the same the next game and we're going to be fine in the series," Winterhawks VP/GM/coach Mike Johnston said. "As the series has gone along, I really think our team's gotten better and better and better every game.
"Last night, I thought they had a slight edge. Tonight, I thought we had the edge in play," Johnston said. "We had the edge in physical play. We had the edge in scoring chances. We had the edge in shots (38-37). They got a couple extra power plays."
There was nothing controversial about the penalty that set up Spokane's power play in overtime. Portland's Seth Jarvis was called for delay of game after the puck sailed off his stick and out of play as he tried to chip the puck out of the Portland zone.
The winning goal came 4:39 into overtime and with 26 seconds left on that power play. Jake McGrew snapped a shot from the left wing circle that Portland goalie Joel Hofer stopped, but Ethan McIndoe was able to sweep the puck to Beckman, who hit the open net from the right-wing circle.
Josh Paterson, reunited on a line with Joachim Blichfeld, scored twice for the Winterhawks, and De Jong scored his first of the playoffs.
Spokane scored twice in the third period to force overtime, with Eli Zummack tying the score with one minute left and the Chiefs' net empty for the extra attacker. Zummack scored from the slot after Spokane won a couple of puck battles to keep the puck in the zone.
Portland took a 3-1 lead into the third period, but a Luke Toporowski goal tightened up things 3:25 into the frame. A spin-around shot from McGrew bounced hard off the end boards and right to Toporowski, who had an open net.
The Winterhawks responded to falling behind in the first minute. They killed off an early Spokane power play, then tied the score on a delayed Chiefs penalty as De Jong weaved his way into the attacking zone and whistled a wrister past Bailey Brkin 9:51 into the first period.
"'Gilly' (Lane Gilliss) made a nice pass to me there. I think I've done that move a few times and it's actually worked out," De Jong said.
Paterson's third goal of the series put Portland up 2-1 at 18:30 of the first period. It came off some good work by Jarvis, who entered the zone with speed then maintained possession under pressure. He dropped a pass to defenseman Clay Hanus, who circled the net and put a backhand shot on goal to set up Paterson's rebound conversion.
Paterson scored his second goal of the game and fourth of the playoffs 7:46 into the second period. He put home a loose puck at the right side of the net after he dropped the puck to Jaydon Dureau and continued to the net to scoop home the rebound of Dureau's point shot.
That goal came on an up-ice rush that followed some extended Spokane pressure. The rush forced Hofer into a series of saves, including stretching his right pad to deny a wrap-around attempt by Beckman.
Paterson is making the most of his first WHL playoff experience.
"Just going to the net, getting to the gritty areas. It's playoff hockey; you've got to get dirty to win," he said.
After centering a line with rookies Jarvis and Jaydon Dureau in recent games, Paterson was paired with Blichfeld and Jarvis as Johnston shuffled his lines.
"I like 'Blich' with 'Patty' (Paterson)," he said. "Patty's a real smart center, and I thought that it gave us a different look tonight, and I thought they were effective."
Spokane scored 31 seconds into the contest on a shot from the point by Ty Smith that beat Hofer through traffic.
Portland has had only one power play over the last three games — not counting the delayed penalty that De Jong scored on Wednesday. But Johnston continued to be pleased with the way the games are being officiated and by the discipline from his young squad.
Of Spokane's three power plays on Wednesday, Johnston's only quibble was with an unsportsmanlike conduct call against Mason Mannek, who got into an extended verbal exchange with several Chiefs late in the second period.
Defenseman John Ludvig took an early cross-checking penalty in his first game back after missing 2 2/3 of the first three games because of a high-hit penalty in Game 1. Despite that early penalty, Johnston said Ludvig played a strong game and delivered a physical edge that helped the Hawks.
"Johnny is a giant part of our 'D' corps," De Jong said. "I think it's pretty noticeable when he's gone. It can be more exhausting for us logging more minutes. To have him back you realize how big he is."
The Hawks expect another big piece back on Saturday. Glass returned to Portland this week after spending time in Las Vegas rehabilitating his injured knee with the Golden Knights. He needs to go through full practices with contact Thursday and Friday, but Johnston said he expects Glass to play in Game 5.
The Hawks need three consecutive wins to advance, but if Glass can provide a spark, perhaps the Hawks can return to Portland for Game 6 on Monday with momentum.
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