PORTLAND, Ore. - An epic Western Hockey League final will come down to a winner-take-all showdown.
Oliver Gabriel scored his second goal of the game with 2:39 left in regulation to lift the Portland Winterhawks forced Game 7 in the WHL final with a 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday.
"It stinks," said Edmonton coach Derek Laxdal. "We had a chance to close it tonight, and we didn't match their urgency until we were behind."
The teams will face off at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Sunday for a spot in the Mastercard Memorial Cup, which starts Friday in Shawinigan, Que.
"We wanted to end it tonight," said Oil Kings centre Michael St. Croix, who scored his first goal of the series in the first period. "A couple bounces here and there and it could have been a different outcome. Our guys will be ready tomorrow."
On the game-winner, Gabriel took a feed from Cam Reid and wired a long wrist shot through the skates of Oil Kings defenceman Keegan Lowe and under the blocker of goaltender Laurent Brossoit.
"I saw that Lowe was a little flat-footed and I was able to get a good shot off," Gabriel said. "I just wanted to get it on net."
Brossoit said he simply lost sight of the puck briefly, allowing a shot he normally stops to sneak by.
"I felt good the first two periods and I thought I gave our team a chance to win," said Brossoit, who stopped 42 shots. "We needed a save there, that's the bottom line."
Gabriel also scored in the first period for Portland, with defenceman Joseph Morrow adding a goal in the third.
St. Croix and Stephane Legault replied for the Oil Kings.
The teams will share a charter flight for the fourth time in the series, and will play Game 7 about 14 hours after arriving in Edmonton.
"I know how felt on the plane the other night from Edmonton," said Portland coach Mike Johnston, referencing the flight after the Oil Kings' 4-3 win in Game 5. "They're going to feel that way tonight and there's not a lot of turnaround time."
Portland won Saturday despite getting no points from its top line of Sven Bartschi, Marcel Noebels and Ty Rattie, who have combined to score nearly half of the Winterhawks' goals in the playoffs. Bartschi had scored in each of the first five games of the series.
St. Croix opened the scoring at the 7:53 mark of the first period, fending off a check by Reid and firing a shot over the glove of Portland goaltender Mac Carruth from the left circle.
Portland tied the game just over three minutes later. Reid sent a seeing-eye pass through the crease and onto the stick of Gabriel, who chipped a one-timer over Broissoit's blocker at 11:07.
Portland pushed for the lead in the second period, getting 18 shots on Brossoit and prime chances from Reid and Morrow that hit the crossbar.
Portland took the lead with 11:16 left in the third period, when a hard-driving Morrow tipped Taylor Leier's pass through the legs of Brossoit. The lead was short-lived, though, as Legault slipped behind the Portland defence for a tap-in goal on a Martin Gernat pass with 8:55 left.
Carruth stopped 30 of the Oil Kings' 32 shots to earn the win, as the Winterhawks outshot Edmonton for the first time in the series.
Neither team capitalized on a power play, with the Winterhawks going 0-for-3 and the Oil Kings going 0-for-2.