Portland takes 2-1 series lead after Edmonton’s defence exploited after turnovers result in goals
By Chris O'Leary, edmontonjournal.com
May 7, 2012
A Winterhawks shot slips through the glove of Oil Kings goalie Laurent Brossoit in the first period. The Portland Winterhawks host the Edmonton Oil Kings in game 3 of the Western Hockey League Championship playoffs at the Rose Garden.
Photograph by: Doug Beghtel , The Oregonian
PORTLAND, ORE. – “It’s plain and simple,” an exasperated Derek Laxdal said after his Edmonton Oil Kings lost a 4-3 decsion to the Winterhawks in Portland on Sunday night.
“When you turn pucks over, Portland is going to take advantage of them and you saw that (on Sunday).”
There’s no easier way to put it. Turnovers led to the Oil Kings’ second consecutive loss in the Western Hockey League championship on Sunday, delighting the 10,497 fans at the Rose Garden and putting Edmonton behind in a series for the first time in its playoff run.
Sven Baertschi broke a 24:53 stalemate, capitalizing off of a turnover from Edmonton defenceman Martin Gernat. A pair of power-play goals 29 seconds apart from Ty Rattie and Oliver Gabriel, respectively, made it a 3-0 game in the second period.
While Edmonton found its game for the final stanza, a turnover from defenceman Cody Corbett behind his own net led to Brendan Leipsic netting the game-winner.
The Oil Kings’ three third-period goals went for naught, as the Winterhawks withstood the comeback attempt to reach the halfway mark in their quest for the Ed Chynoweth championship trophy, which eluded them in last year’s final.
Laxdal was blunt in what went wrong.
“That’s Portland,” the coach said. “They’re a good hockey team, they pressure you to make mistakes and, if you look at the last two games, we shot ourselves in the foot with turnovers we haven’t made all season.
“Is it inexperience by our hockey club? Yeah. Was it a great play by Portland? Yeah. But we’re better than that, and we were better than that in the third period. We have to play like that on Tuesday night.”
In just about every step of the series to this point, Portland is showing itself to be the more experienced team. They evened up the series on Friday in Edmonton, goading the Oil Kings into penalties and taking them out of their game.
They did more of the same on Sunday. Edmonton forward Henrik Samuelsson picked up a double-minor in the first after high-sticking Portland winger Joey Baker behind the play at 9:30.
Samuelsson said he was protecting himself from a hit when he made contact with Baker.
“I didn’t have intentions to hurt the kid or anything like that,” Samuelsson said. “It just happened. I’m glad the kid’s all right.”
Portland defenceman and Sherwood Park product Joe Morrow climbed over a referee to get in a fight with Keegan Lowe, landing a solid punch to the face of the Oil Kings’ defenceman. As that fight wound down, Edmonton’s Jordan Peddle and Portland’s Brad Ross dropped the gloves. Both were ejected.
It wasn’t until Edmonton captain Mark Pysyk was in the box for high sticking that the Winterhawks’ power play sparked.
Rattie scored with Edmonton forward Travis Ewanyk hanging off of him, which landed Ewanyk a penalty of his own.
Gabriel cashed in on that penalty shortly after to open the game up.
“I was happy with our focus,” Laxdal said.
“I thought we were playing pretty well in the third period.”
“Our guys were focused, we didn’t have any chirping. There was some at the nets, but we instructed our guys to go hard to the net and stay out of (the penalty box) and we drew a couple of penalties,” Laxdal said. “We were right where we wanted to be in a road game. It was 0-0, we killed off a great four-minute penalty in the first period and we just shot ourselves in the foot.”
Samuelsson started the comeback bid for Edmonton, striking 20 seconds into the third on the power play. Leipsic’s seventh of the playoffs made it a three-goal game again, but Gernat’s right-wing wrist shot beat Mac Carruth (34 saves) at 7:16.
Lowe scored the same goal from the left wing at 10:34 to get Edmonton back in striking distance with a considerable amount of time on the clock.
Carruth wouldn’t allow any more goals on the night, and Portland continued to sprinkle on the pressure off of Edmonton miscues. Edmonton netminder Laurent Brossoit (29 saves) stood up to what was thrown at him, but Carruth did the same, surviving a series of goalmouth stands in the final minutes of the third.
The Oil Kings defence was unshakeable through the first three rounds of the playoffs. The opportunistic Winterhawks have found a way to knock the unit down a few pegs and it has been the key to their two wins in the series.
“You have a game plan and you try to execute the game plan against them,” Portland head coach and general manager Mike Johnston said. “They shortened up on their back end in the third, but I was surprised. They had a lot of jump in the third and I give them a lot of credit on how their defence played in the third.”
No comment after third-period hit
As Edmonton celebrated its third goal of the night, forward Mitchell Moroz was hit by Portland defenceman William Wren, who threw himself into the Oil Kings’ celebration to make contact. Oil Kings head athletic therapist Brian Cheeseman came out to help Moroz off of the ice, but the player slowly left on his own accord. A penalty was not assessed on the play.
After the game, Laxdal would not comment on the hit. Asked if the official came over to explain the no-call, a visibly upset Laxdal refused comment again.
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal