EDMONTON, AB- Edgars Kulda gave Edmonton their first lead of the series and the Oil Kings went on to complete their comeback, scoring the game’s final three goals in a 3-2 win over the Portland Winterhawks in game three of the WHL finals.
Three games into the series and the story has remained the same with the Portland Winterhawks taking an early lead in each contest. Just 2:38 into the opening period, Chase De Leo would swing around and fire a shot on net from the face-off dot and it would find twine in the top-right corner, past the glove of goaltender Tristan Jarry. Derrick Pulliot and Taylor Leier had the assists.
In another case of deja vu, the Oil Kings found themselves in a two-goal hole shortly following the first score of the game. In game two on Sunday night, Portland scored twice in the first 3:14 of the game. Tonight, Portland took the 2-0 lead at 3:30 of the opening period.
It was Mathew Dumba who scored that goal, his second of the series, with a wrister from the slot. Brendan Leipsic recorded the assist.
“The thoughts on the game was here we go again, in the first five minutes,” Edmonton Head Coach Derek Laxdal said. “I tried to change the strategy up a little bit by not taking a timeout and just let the kids settle in and play. After that, I thought we played a real solid game. It was a gutsy effort from the guys top to bottom.”
Towards the end of the opening period the Oil Kings began to gain some momentum. They had a few quality chances in the last five minutes of play, outshooting Portland 19-10 in the first 20 minutes. Leading up to tonight the Oil Kings had not held the shot advantage in any period other than the third (games one and two).
That momentum carried into the second period as Edmonton cut the Portland lead in half just 4:11 into the middle frame. On the power play, Mitch Moroz dug the puck out of the corner and found Curtis Lazar at the face-off dot. Lazar fed Henrik Samuelsson with a cross-ice pass and the Oil Kings forward buried the shot behind Corbin Boes.
The Oil Kings tied things up a few minutes later on a breakaway goal. Shortly after an effective penalty kill, the Oil Kings got a breakaway opportunity with Luke Bertolucci streaking ahead of Dumba. The Portland defenceman pushed Bertolucci to the ice from behind but the Oil King moved quickly to his feet, made a great move on Boes and netted the equalizer at 11:04.
“We’re resilient,” Bertolucci said. “We’ve had a lot of adversity the last few days, obviously going down (2-0 in the series). But we knew we were coming back to our barn and we had to re-focus and re-energize and we did just that tonight.”
A surging Oil Kings nearly took the lead minutes later. A scramble out in front of the net resulted in Samuelsson scoring, or so the crowd thought. The goal was waved off after an official review due to the puck being kicked in.
“As we expected here, it was a hard-fought game,” Portland Head Coach Mike Johnston said. “We started the way we wanted to. I thought the third period was one of our best periods in the game, second period I didn’t think we played very well. They got some momentum in the second period. Even though they had the disallowed goal, I thought they carried the momentum throughout the second period.”
Edmonton took the lead for real at 13:13 of the final frame. Moroz found Edgars Kulda on a rush and the Oil Kings had their first lead of the series.
After allowing two goals on the first three shots of the game, Jarry played shutdown in net for Edmonton and turned in a 35-save performance.
The Oil Kings were able to hang on as they won their first game of the series and now trail Portland 2-1 in the best-of-seven.
“It makes you more resilient,” Laxdal said. “It just puts another coat of armour on our hockey club and that’s something that we’re going to have to have. Tomorrow is a new day. We got that first win of the series and they’re going to come out harder. Our fans were outstanding tonight. I thought they gave us a lot of energy even when the score was 2-0. You could hear them chanting and trying to get the boys going. I’d love to see about 10-15,000 of them in here tomorrow night and give us that little extra push over the hump.”