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Luca Sbisa's winner cuts Giants' series lead over Portland to 2-1

NHL.com @NHL

VANCOUVER, B.C. - Luke Walker scored and assisted on the winning goal as the Portland Winterhawks beat the Vancouver Giants 3-2 in Western Hockey League playoff action Wednesday night.

Spencer Bennett and Luca Sbisa, with the winner, also scored for the Winterhawks as they reduced Vancouver's lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series to 2-1. Chris Francis assisted on all three Portland goals.

James Wright scored twice for the Giants, who suffered their first loss in seven post-season games.

Portland coach Mike Johnston's attempt to shake up his team by starting goaltender Ian Curtis in place of Mac Carruth paid off. The tight contest was a sharp contrast from two one-sided Vancouver wins in the first two games in Portland, where the clubs combined for 26 goals.

The Winterhawks outshot the Giants 38-31 while converting two of five power play chances. Vancouver scored on one of four man-advantage opportunities.

The game was tied 1-1 after the first period and the Winterhawks led 2-1 after the second.

Bennett gave the Winterhawks a 1-0 lead with a power play goal on their first shot 1:11 into the game. The marker came 10 seconds after a fracas that earned Giants captain Lance Bouma a roughing double-minor, setting up the man-advantage situation as four players - two from each team - were sent off.

Sbisa, who played for Switzerland in the Olympics, started the melee as he decked Vancouver's Tomas Vincour with a crunching check.

At 1:44 of the second period, Wright, who spent most of the season with the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning, took the puck off Sbisa in front of the Portland net, went around Curtis and tucked the puck into the net for a 1-1 tie.

But Walker put the Winterhawks ahead 2-1 with just over a minute left in the second as he beat Vancouver goaltender Mark Segal with a shot through the legs.

Sbisa scored the winner on a power play at 2:20 of the third as blasted in a slapshot from the blue line to give Portland a 3-1 lead while Vancouver's David Musil was off for high-sticking. The goal came shortly after Giants centre Craig Cunningham hit the post on a short-handed two-on-one situation.

Wright brought the Giants within a goal at 17:04 of the final frame as he tapped in Mylan Kytnar's goalmouth pass while Sbisa was serving a tripping penalty. But the Giants could not get any closer.

Games 3 and 4 go Friday and Saturday in Vancouver.

Note: Portland's Nino Niederreiter was also a member of Switzerland's Olympic team.

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