LANGLEY, B.C. – Four poor periods and a power play that suddenly went ice-cold sunk the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Conference finals.
The first periods in Games 1 and 5, combined with the third periods of Games 2 and 4 were too much to overcome, as those 80 minutes played a key factor as the Chiefs saw their season end on Friday night at Langley Events Centre.
The Giants scored a pair of first-period goals in Game 5 to put the pressure on the Chiefs.
After Spokane finally got on the board 4 minutes, 22 seconds into the third period, Brayden Watts struck for what turned out to be the winning goal in a 3-2 victory to oust the Chiefs 4-1 in the best-of-seven series.
In those four crucial periods combined, Vancouver outscored Spokane 11-1. In the other 11 periods of the series, Spokane held an 9-5 advantage.
Each team prevailed once in overtime, with the Chiefs taking a 3-2 win in Game 3 and the Giants taking Game 4 – and a stranglehold on the series – 4-3.
Chiefs coach Dan Lambert said those lapses mean nothing now.
“We can look at segments of games and say there are 20 minutes we want back, but at the end of the day, they did what they needed to do to beat us,” Lambert said. “You have to give Vancouver credit. They did a great job playing a certain way. They were obviously a very good opponent.
“We had a lot of guys play through a lot of stuff. They gave it everything that they had and that is all you can ask for as a coach.”
Special teams were also a letdown for Spokane, which entered the series at 48% with the man advantage but finished 1 for 11 against the Giants.
The Giants scored a power-play marker in each of the five games and finished the series at 5 for 12 (41.6%).
Vancouver’s penalty kill played the Spokane power play even, with each team scoring once.
Vancouver’s short-handed score came in the first period of Game 5 as Bowen Byram intercepted the puck in his zone. Instead of making the safe play and firing the puck down the ice, Byram skated into the Spokane zone, made a sudden stop and fired a low shot past Chiefs goalie Bailey Brkin at the 16:42 mark.
Less than 3 minutes later, the Giants’ power play went to work for the second time and Dylan Plouffe’s shot hit Justin Sourdif and went in for the 2-0 lead.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan got the Chiefs on the board early in the third, redirecting Ty Smith’s shot on the power play. As the goal was being announced, Vancouver’s Watts buried a rebound off an Alex Kannok Leipert shot 21 seconds later.
The goal stood as the winner as Ethan McIndoe got Spokane back within a goal with an extra attacker on the ice with 1:47 to play.
Vancouver responded by spending the next 47 seconds in the Chiefs’ zone.
Spokane had one last rush but managed one more shot on goal while captain Jared Dmytriw and Owen Hardy each came up with shot blocks in the dying seconds.
Regardless of the outcome, Lambert said the team can use this moving forward.
“Whenever are you are in the playoffs and you do have a little bit of success, you do learn things. The No. 1 thing we learned is how difficult it is,” Lambert said. “I think it is certainly going to make us better in the long run.”
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