VANCOUVER - David Rutherford scored a goal and added two assists as the Spokane Chiefs blanked the Vancouver Giants 4-0 Saturday night, putting the defending Memorial Cup champions on the brink of elimination from the WHL playoffs.
Justin Falk, Drayson Bowman, and Tyler Johnson also scored for the Chiefs as Spokane took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semi-final series before a disappointed crowd of 8,049 at the Pacific Coliseum. Spokane goaltender Dustin Tokarski picked up his first shutout of the playoffs, but he was rarely tested as the Chiefs outshot the Giants 30-22.
The series now moves to Spokane for Monday's sixth game and, if necessary, Tuesday's seventh and deciding contest. If the Chiefs prevail in either game, this will mark the first time in three years that the Giants have not advanced to the WHL championship series.
Rutherford and Falk scored in the first period while Bowman and Johnson, with a shorthanded empty-netter in the game's final minute, tallied in the third.
Vancouver was held scoreless on five power play chances while the Chiefs were scoreless on four attempts. The Chiefs are now 6-0 in the playoffs when leading after two periods, continuing a trend that saw them go 41-3 in the regular season.
Falk opened the scoring 1:15 into the game as he fired in a shot from the high slot after taking a pass from Rutherford during a three-on-two. About four minutes later, Rutherford put Spokane ahead 2-0 as he ripped a wrist shot over Vancouver goaltender Tyson Sexsmith's while using linemate Ondrej Roman as a decoy on a two-on-one.
Ironically, Sexsmith billets with Rutherford's parents in their Ladner, B.C., home.
The Chiefs dominated the second period as they allowed the Giants only four shots in the first 15 minutes and outshot them 13-8. But neither club managed to score. For the first time in the 2007-08, Spokane coach Bill Peters changed his lineup as Ryan Letts suited up and Dustin Donaghy was scratched. Vancouver was shut out at home for the first time since Oct. 21, when they bowed 2-0 to Spokane.