Late goal lifts Winterhawks to Game 1 win at Seattle on Saturday
It took the Portland Winterhawks about half the game to find their game on Saturday, May 7, and about half of the third period to get a shot on goal.
But they stuck with it, kept the Seattle Thunderbirds from seizing control, and converted a late power play to win Game 1 of what figures to be a feisty Western Hockey League playoff series between the rivals.
Clay Hanus scored a power-play goal with 3:39 remaining in the third period and Robbie Fromm-Delorme added an empty-net goal in the closing seconds of a 4-2 Portland win in Kent, Washington, to open the best-of-7 series.
Game 2 is at 5 p.m. Sunday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland. The Winterhawks have the home-ice advantage in the series, but played the opener on the road because graduations on Friday and Saturday meant the VMC was not available.
With the next two games at home, Portland can seize control of the series by protecting home ice. But it doesn't figure to come easily.
Saturday's certainly didn't come without some anxious moments. The Thunderbirds twice hit the post in the third period with the game tied 2-2, then created havoc inside the final minute with an extra skater on the ice and appeared to have an open-net to tie the game but didn't convert.
Winterhawks goalie Taylor Gauthier came up big when he needed to, stopping 23 of 25 shots.
Marcus Nguyen and James Stefan scored second-period goals as Portland shook off a 1-0 deficit. Matthew Rempe's goal with one minute left in the second period tied it for Seattle.
Nguyen's goal was set up by Hanus, who carried the puck beyond the goal line to the right of the goal and sent the puck toward the crease that Nguyen was able to deflect into the net.
With the teams skating four on four, Stefan broke into the zone alone and scored a go-ahead goal.
The Thunderbirds easily killed a Winterhawks power play to start the third period, then pressed the advantage. Seattle had the first five shots on goal in the third period. Portland's first shot on goal in the final period didn't happen until about eight minutes had elapsed.
But the game turned on Portland's fourth power play of the game. Tyson Kozak drove to the net on the rush and drew a hooking call with 4:38 left in the game. Midway through that advantage, Hanus — who returned to action after missing the final three games of the Hawks' first-round sweep of Prince George — took a shot that found its way through traffic — Stefan was stationed in front of the goal — and past goalie Thomas Milic.
Portland stayed out of the penalty box on Saturday. Seattle had only one power play in the game, late in the first period.
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