Everett's Jujhar Khaira's hat trick led the Silvertips to a blow out win against Seattle Friday (Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
EVERETT -- Friday night the Everett Silvertips proved that in hockey, the team that plays with more desperation usually comes out on top.
With their backs to the wall the Silvertips controlled the game from start to finish and won 6-1 in a blow out at the Comcast Arena. Everett picked up a hat trick from Jujhar Khaira and cut the Seattle Thunderbirds lead in their opening round playoff series to 3-1. The series will now return to the ShoWare Center Saturday night for Game 5 as the T-Birds will try again to close out the Silvertips.
Friday's game was never really in doubt. As well as Seattle had played in the previous three games, they started just as poorly in this one. The Silvertips fought hard, won every battle, forced Seattle into to turnovers and took control of the game from the opening face off.
"They jumped on us," head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. "We weren't ready to play and they were. They had a good start, we had a bad start and that was the game."
Seattle had done a good job to start the series managing the puck, always a key when playing Everett. Friday night they struggled with turnovers all night which stymied their offense and allowed Everett to generate chances.
Less than two minutes into the game Seattle's poor puck management led to the game's first score. After failing to clear their zone the Silvertips got the puck behind the Seattle net where Khaira was able to walk out in front and beat goalie Taran Kozun on a back hand.
A minute later the T-Birds went to the power play after Dawson Leedahl was called for tripping. What could have been a chance for Seattle to get back in the game turned into further disaster. A turnover in the Everett zone led to Manraj Hayer taking the puck the other way. While he was covered by Shea Theodore, no Seattle forward came back to pick up Josh Winquist who was alone in the slot. Hayer fed him the puck for an easy short handed goal.
From there the T-Birds game fell apart.
"They scored a couple goals there and then all of a sudden we wanted to try and do more and more," Konowalchuk said. "That plays right into their hands and that's what we get. We had as many turnovers in that first period as we've had in the first two games."
Everett would add another goal in the first as Brayden Low somehow managed to get a puck past Kozun on the short side. It was a goal that the goalie probably wants back and a sign that this was not going to be Seattle's night.
"We came out with a chance to wrap up the series tonight and they scored a couple of quick ones at the start," defenseman Adam Henry said. "We just lost a little bit of composure there and started getting frustrated, gripping sticks to tight."
The second period was Seattle's best chance to get into the game. They were awarded consecutive power plays early on but could not convert and ended the night 0-for-4 with the man advantage. While they still struggled managing the puck they were able to cut the lead to one goal late as a Jared Hauf shot got past a screened Austin Lotz.
That was as close as the T-Birds would get.
The Silvertips opened up the flood gates in the third period, scoring three more times on two more Khaira goals and a final nail in the coffin by Carson Stadnyk.
All series long the T-Birds had done a great job shutting down the Silvertips top scorers. Khaira, Winquist and Ivan Nikolishin had been held to just three assists in the first three games. Friday night the Everett top guns got off the mat. While those three played on separate lines they combined to score four goals and add four more assists. Do they now have some confidence?
"They're good players," Konowalchuk said of the trio. "They're good players but I don't think that I'm any more worried about them now than I was the whole series. They're good players and they played a good game tonight."
Part of the problem for Seattle was that they were without Jaimen Yakubowski who was serving a one game suspension for his hit on Noah Juulsen in Game 3. Yakubowski is key to Seattle's shut down line, brings energy and his absence caused a shuffling of lines that perhaps threw the T-Birds off their game a bit.
In the end the Sivlertips needed the win more, played better and are now able to stay alive and take back some momentum. For Seattle, they have to wipe away this blow out loss and get focused quickly to try and end the series on Saturday night.
"It's good to get back at it," Konowalchuk said about the quick turn around. "We've got to get back to our game and back on it. As bad as that game was...it's only one loss. It's the same as an overtime loss or victory. We just to get back and play our game better than we did tonight. They played a good game."
Seattle's last game at home, Game 3, was probably their best full effort in the series so far. They came out strong, managed the puck and had Everett on their heels often. To keep the series from getting tighter and to avoid the inevitable comparisons to last year's playoffs, Seattle will need to find that energy again.
"We're going to think about this game but at the same time forget about this game," Henry said. "We don't to dwell on it, we don't want to take the wind out of our sails. We want to come out tomorrow with a positive attitude and take care of the series."
Face off on Saturday is at 7 P.M. at the ShoWare Center and tickets are still available.
With Yakubowski out of the line up the T-Birds moved Mitch Elliot up to the shut down line. Without being able to dictate the match ups Seattle was still able to contain the Winquist line somewhat. Winquist's goal was on special teams and Seattle's lines were jumbled late when the wheels fell off. How they handle Everett's top players on Saturday will be a big key to victory.
After starting off killing 10 of the first 11 Everett power plays, the T-Birds have now surrendered four power play goals in the last two games. They continue to take more penalties than they would probably like, going short handed six more times on Friday. They now have been short handed 24 times in the series.
Conversely the T-Birds power play has failed on it's last eight attempts after scoring three times in the first two games.
The winner of this series will go on to play the Kelowna Rockets who wrapped up their first round series with Tri City on Friday. The Rockets beat the Americans 4 games to 1 and will now get a chance to rest up a bit longer before starting round two.
Seattle's 2013 first round draft pick Dante Fabbro was in attendance Friday night. We were able to speak with him about his season and where he is on his decision for next year. Look for that story later this weekend.
Follow Andrew Eide on Twitter @andyeide.