LANGLEY, B.C. – Up 2-0 with 20 minutes to go, the Spokane Chiefs appeared to be in prime position to earn a road split heading home for Games 3 and 4.
The Vancouver Giants had other intentions, unleashing a dominant third period while the Chiefs were left wondering what had just happened.
The Giants erased a 2-0 deficit thanks to four goals in a span of 3:21 of the third period on Saturday night at Langley Events Centre, turning a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 victory in Game 2 of the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference Finals.
Vancouver holds a 2-0 lead as the series shifts to Spokane for Games 3 and 4 Tuesday and Wednesday night, with the Chiefs grasping for answers after losing consecutive games for the first time in 25 contests.
Following Game 1’s 4-1 loss on Friday, Chiefs coach Dan Lambert said his team’s effort and competition level were nowhere near the necessary level to achieve postseason success. Through 40 minutes, Spokane was not only much better in all facets of the game, but had full marks for holding a 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of goals 38 seconds apart, with an intermission in between.
The shots were relatively even after two periods, with Vancouver holding the slight edge at 24-20.
Defenseman Noah King’s wrist shot from the point through traffic beat goaltender David Tendeck with 18.3 seconds remaining in the opening period. Spokane doubled the lead just 19 seconds into the middle period when Tendeck was handcuffed by Jake McGrew’s shot, failing to catch the puck cleanly, and Jaret Anderson-Dolan was first on the puck, shoveling it into the open goal for a 2-0 advantage.
In Game 1, the lone Spokane goal came off a crazy bounce off the end boards with the Chiefs’ Adam Beckman cashing in. On Saturday, it was the Giants’ turn to use a fortuitous bounce on the same section of the boards, with Alex Kannok Leipert’s dump-in ricocheting out front to Dawson Holt.
Holt made no mistake, scoring goals in back-to-back games to get the Giants on the board at the 5:15 mark of the third.
Giants captain Jared Dmytriw would then deliver goals 21 seconds apart, burying a rebound off a 2-on-1 for the first, then scoring from the faceoff circle as he fell to the ice for the second.
Yannik Valenti one-timed a feed from Davis Koch on the power play, giving Vancouver a two-goal cushion.
“We showed a little panic after that (first goal) and made a bad decision to give up a two-on-one, and then we were on our heels,” Lambert said.
When all was said and done, the Giants outshot Spokane 20-6 in the final period and 44-26 for the game.
The Chiefs are left searching for answers as the series shifts to Spokane.
“It doesn’t matter how you lose. At the end of the day, they got a win,” Lambert said. “We need to find a way to play one solid hockey game for 60 minutes and see what happens.”
Coupled with Friday’s Game 1 defeat, Spokane lost consecutive games for the first time since February.
While the team showed improvement from Game 1 to 2, the power play is still lacking, going 0-for-2 for the second straight night.
The first Chiefs man-advantage opportunity spanned the second and third periods, while the second came after they fell behind 4-2.
“Our power play gave us no momentum whatsoever,” Lambert said. “We didn’t get any shots on the power plays. That’s unfortunate, because it has been a big weapon for us all playoffs.”
Spokane entered the series with the top-ranked power play (48 percent) and second-best penalty kill (85.7 percent), but through two games, the Giants have gone 2-for-4 while a man up, denying the Chiefs on all four of their opportunities.
The Chiefs were without forward Luc Smith, who was hurt early in Game 1. Lambert said there is no update and they are waiting for Smith to see the team doctors. Smith was walking with a visible limp outside the Spokane dressing room. … In addition to Noah King and Anderson-Dolan’s goals, Riley Woods, Luke Toporowski, Jake McGrew and Ethan McIndoe each had one assist. … Chiefs goaltender Bailey Brkin finished with 40 saves.
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