(1090 The Fan) — During its three game losing streak, Seattle had lost its trademark physicality. It came back in a big way, Tuesday, against a team it only sees once a year.
Seattle fell behind 1-0 after a first period filled with a few bad breaks (like a Ryan Gropp point-blank miss), but answered with a strong final 40 minutes and change for the streak-snapping win.
In the end, Alexander Delnov scored the game-winner in overtime to lift Seattle past Prince Albert 4-3. Mathew Barzal scored two goals, Roberts Lipsbergs added his first goal in nine games, and Shea Theodore contributed two assists to lead the T-Birds.
The return to Thunderbird hockey was a welcomed sight to all on the Seattle (38-19-2-4) bench.
“That’s huge,” Evan Wardley, the enforcer of Seattle’s defense, said afterward of his team’s physical effort. “I mean, that’s how we got to play going into the playoffs especially.”
“Spirits were a little bit down after three losses in a row there and coming into the home stretch, that’s what we needed to get the confidence going,” added Seattle captain Justin Hickman.
“We knew we had to leave it all on the line tonight, just have a full sixty minute effort. That’s the way we should be playing every night, we’ll see a lot of that coming down the stretch.”
The T-Birds certainly left it all on the ice tonight, including some shattered glass when Wardley hammered a Raiders’ skater into the glass near the penalty box late in the third period. At that point, Seattle held a 3-2 lead with just under five minutes remaining, and while the prolonged delay lasting nigh on 15 minutes to install a new pane and clean up the shards from the ice interrupted Seattle’s momentum, the team still managed to close out a team fighting for its playoff lives.
Prince Albert (29-29-3-2), an Eastern Conference foe, entered tied with Red Deer for the eighth and final playoff spot with 62 points. They carry some top line talent, including German center Leon Draisaitl, that the T-Birds thankfully only have to face once a year.
The Raiders opened a 1-0 lead when defenseman Tomas Andrlik beat Taran Kozun for just his second goal of the season. Despite falling down early once again, Seattle fought back with a feisty second period which created a tie game heading into the final period.
Barzal tied the game at 7:13 when he corralled a loose puck behind the Prince Albert goal, spun quickly and fired a back-hander that beat Raiders’ goalie Nick McBride, a player Barzal knows well from their days in Pee-Wee hockey in Vancouver.
Shortly after, Draisaitl scored his 29th of the season to put the Raiders back on top 2-1, 8:51 into the second. As the period wound down, it was Lipsbergs that evened the score at 12:26 when he flipped a rebound out in front of the crease over the shoulder of McBride. The Raiders’ 16-year-old netminder finished with 40 saves.
A 2-2 game deep into the third period, once again it was Barzal who found himself with the puck deep in the Raiders’ zone with a chance to score the go-ahead goal.
“I had the puck a little more this game, (my) confidence level is up I guess…and I think I caught (McBride) going away,” said Barzal afterwards.
That Barzal did, with a sweet deke that had McBride diving one way and Barzal looking at a wide open left side of the Raiders’ net. It was an important go-ahead goal, unfortunately it didn’t stand up.
Prince Albert tied the score with just over a minute left when a shot by Josh Morrissey — another one of the young, talented core Prince Albert is developing — bounced off of Kozun and found its way past the goal line. Delnov, though, scored 2:35 into the 5-minute sudden death period to secure the victory.
The win not only bought Seattle a little breathing room in the Western Conference standings as it attempts to hold off Spokane for the fourth playoff spot (and ultimately home ice in a potential four versus five playoff matchup), but was a positive return to the brand of hockey that head coach Steve Konowalchuk expects from his team.
“It’s a momentum changer,” said Konowalchuk. “We have guys like Theodore and the Barzal and Lipsbergs, these kind of guys change games with offense. But Wardley, Hickman, Mitch (Elliot) these guys have that same kind of power to change the tempo of a game and we needed that tonight, it’s been lacking.”
It returned Tuesday, and the team correspondingly, returned to the win column.
1. PA Tomas Andrlik (2), 11:35
2. SEA Mathew Barzal (11) (Hickman, Theodore), 7:13
3. PA Leon Draisaitl (29) (Conroy), 8:51
4. SEA Roberts Lipsbergs (32) (Kolesar, Delnov), 12:26
5. SEA Mathew Barzal (12) (Gropp, Theodore), 15:33
6. PA Josh Morrissey (23) (Draisaitl, Danyluk), 18:44
7. SEA Alexander Delnov (26) (Theodore, Lipsbergs), 2:35
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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