To go on a long playoff run in hockey you need your ore unknown players to step up in big games. It also helps when they do that on the same night your star scorer has the best playoff game in his career.
Patrick Bajkov netted his first career playoff hat-trick for Everett and they got three more points from Garrett Pilon, who has 21 now in 13 postseason games.
The ‘Tips also benefited from goals by depth players Reece Vitelli, Martin Fasko-Rudas and d-man Ian Walker in an 8-4 win in Game 3 that gives them a 2-1 series lead.
Vitelli had two points in the game and now has six points in 13 playoff games after putting up 10 points over 70 games in the regular season.
Fasko-Rudas likewise has played his most productive hockey in the postseason.
He also has six points in the playoffs, after only netting 15 throughout the whole regular season. Both players have more than doubled their points-per-game since the playoffs began.
Everett got on board first for the the third straight game in the series and it came off a couple puck battles won the side boards. Fasko-Rudas got to a puck first at the blue line, chipped it up to Vitelli at center-ice and then Vitelli found Fasko-Rudas with speed. The Slovakian import burst in on Tri-City goalie Patrick Dea and beat him on the blocker side for his fourth of the playoffs.
The goal came just 2:36 in.
Just under eight minutes later, the Silvertips doubled their lead. Bajkov picked off a drop pass by Michael Rasmussen, chipped the puck around Kyle Olson and flew in on a breakaway. He patiently tucked the puck around Dea’s left skate for the 2-0 lead. The marker was his ninth of the postseason.
As it did in Game 1 though, Tri-City’s power play came through and got the Americans right back in the game.
First, after Riley Sutter got caught checking from behind, Rasmussen got his stick on a point shot by Juuso Vålimåki and the game was 2-1 after 20 minutes.
Then after Sean Richards took an early holding penalty in the second, Rasmussen picked off a drop pass and had his pass to a driving Jordan Topping kick off a skate. Vålimåki was following up the play, found the puck and dangled around Everett goalie Carter Hart before tucking the puck in for his second of the playoffs and a 2-2 tie.
Two Tri-City power plays and the 2-0 Everett lead had been erased.
Those would be the only Tri-City power plays of the game however and that would be key as Everett had 5-on-5 scoring from all over their lineup. The Americans are up to 15-of-30 on the man advantage for 50 percent.
Everett was 0-for-2 on the power play.
The Silvertips got back on top 3:55 into the second. Vålimåki mishandled a pass and Richards pressured him into a turnover. He then found a fresh-off-the-bench Vitelli who beat Dea for his third of the playoffs.
If Fasko-Rudas and Vitelli were unexpected sources of offense then the scorer of Everett’s fourth goal was an even rarer source. Garett Pilon banked a nice drop pass to Ian Walker and the defenseman’s point shot found its way by Dea.
The goal was Walker’s first ever in the playoffs and second ever in the WHL. His only other goal came on February 10th against Vancouver.
Tri-City once again trailed by two goals at 4-2 with only 20 minutes left to make up the difference.
They would only need 1:45 of game action to tie the game up at four in the third period.
First, Topping found an open Nolan Yaremko at the back post. Hart made the stop but Isaac Johnson was all over the rebound and powered in his fifth of the playoffs.
Then The Americans got one of the more fortunate bounces you will see. Rasmussen’s shot on a 3-on-3 rush missed the net and then banked off of Wyatte Wylie and the back leg of Hart before ending up in the net.
The goal was Rasmussen’s second of the game and tied the score up at four.
After Tri-City’s leading scorer had come through for them, Everett’s followed suit with two more to complete the hat-trick, his first ever in the playoffs and fourth of his career.
Bajkov started a four-goal Everett surge over 5:50 of game action.
Bajkov reinstated the Silvertips lead 6:54 into the third. Another ill-fated drop pass doomed the Americans as Morgan Geekie could not hook up with Vålimåki and Bajkov went in on a breakaway. This time he went backhand and beat Dea for his second of the game.
Then 2:26 later he took a feed from Richards and wired a shot by Dea’s glove for the hat-trick and a 6-4 lead.
Coming back from two-goals down for the third time was not to be for Tri-City as Connor Dewar got three chances at a puck in tight on Dea after Pilon threw it to the net and ultimately netted his sixth of the playoffs.
Putting the game to bed with 8:16 left was Pilon who banked a backhand shot off of Dea and in.
Eight goals for Everett on 26 shots and that was it for Dea. Beck Warm came in and stopped both shots he saw.
Hart stopped 29 of 33 to get the win.
The two teams will now get two days off in Kennewick before they get back on the ice for Game 4 on Thursday.
-Turnovers have plagued the Americans in this series. This time it was drop passes in their own zone and at their own blue line that created many odd-man rushes on their goalie Patrick Dea.
-Maxwell James and Connor Bouchard for Tri-City and Fasko-Rudas for Everett were assessed 10-minute misconducts with three seconds left in regulation.Hart also got involved with James after Wylie took a high shot from the overage Americans power forward.
-The loss was the first at home in the postseason for Tri-City.
-Geekie again failed to score for the second straight game in the playoffs, after scoring at least once each game in the first nine he played.
-Geekie was 12-of-24 from the face off dot for Tri-City while Yaremko went 13-of-19 and Riley Sawchuk was 4-of-15. For Everett Matt Fonteyne was 9-of-22, Riley Sutter was 14-for-25 and Vitelli went 5-of-10.
-Tri-City was led in shots by Rasmussen and Johnson who both had four. Everett’s shot leader was Bajkov with five.
-Everett has yet to lose on the road in the playoffs as they won twice in Kent, twice in Portland now once in Kennewick for a 5-0 road record.