(1090 The Fan) — Russell Maxwell and Shea Theodore scored early first period power-play goals as Seattle got out to the quick start they were hoping for in its first round playoff series against Everett.
Thanks to 38 saves from Taran Kozun, those goals held up to give Seattle a 2-1 victory over the Silvertips in Game 1 of their best-of-seven playoff series.
Everett entered as the hottest team in the WHL, sporting an 11-0-0-2 record to conclude the season. The two teams split their regular-season series and were facing off for the first time in the playoffs. The T-Birds got out to a quick start after the Tips’ Manraj Hayer took a boarding penalty just 57 seconds into the contest.
Seattle was able to hold the puck in the zone and a Jaimen Yakubowski shot was deflected by Tips’ goalie Austin Lotz to the feet of a waiting Russell Maxwell. Maxwell wasted little time jabbing the puck into the back of the net to give Seattle a 1-0 lead at 2:27.
The T-Birds would light the lamp once more in the first period on their third power play of the game. Jujhar Khaira was called for goaltender interference at 9:56 and this time Seattle’s defense got involved. Theodore, recently named to the Western Conference All-Star team, took a pass from forward Branden Troock and beat Lotz at 11:44. Suddenly the T-Birds had a 2-0 lead in front of their home crowd at the ShoWare Center, a start they could not have planned any better.
The Silvertips would score early in the second period, cutting the Seattle lead to 2-1, when forward Patrick Bajkov capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play by beating Kozun at 2:43.
Everett would continue to bombard the Seattle netminder with shot after shot for the remaining 37 minutes, but could not notch the equalizer.
“We tried focusing on our game and getting on the attack and getting on the fore-check and not worry about the (other) team so much,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said after the game.
One particular area that enabled the Thunderbirds to win Saturday night, was the penalty kill. Seattle held Everett to just 1-for-6 on its power play despite being out shot 26-10 in the final two periods. Because of that effort, two goals were enough to secure a Game 1 victory.
“Our penalty kill was big for us to get us through that,” Konowalchuk admitted. “That’s where they generated a lot of their momentum today. We’ve got to stay out of the box.”
The other key was Kozun. The 19-year-old netminder earned his first career playoff victory while stopping 38 of 39 shots he faced from the Silvertips. Ever since the T-Birds acquired Kozun from Kamloops at the January 10th trading deadline, the team had visions of Saturday’s outcome.
“This is one game and he played a good game for us, but there’s more to come,” noted Konowalchuk. “(Kozun’s) been good since we got him and he was good for us tonight.”
The two teams will travel north to Everett for Game 2, Sunday at 4:05 p.m. at Comcast Arena.
1. SEA Russell Maxwell (1) (Yakubowski, Lipsbergs), 2:27 (PP)
2. SEA Shea Theodore (1) (Troock, Barzal), 11:44 (PP)
3. EVT Patrick Bajkov (1) (Winquist, Nikolishin), 2:43 (PP)
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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