Prior to Friday night, the Spokane Chiefs successfully held a lead heading into the third period 10 times out of 12.
The 13th time didn’t go their way.
Tristen Nielsen scored on a breakaway in overtime to help the Vancouver Giants erase a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2. The Giants scored twice in the third period to send the game to overtime before Nielsen skated in on Spokane goaltender Lukas Parik for the winner.
Parik was under pressure for much of the night and turned aside 33 of the 36 shots he faced. David Tendeck stopped 20 shots for Vancouver.
Nielsen had an assist to go along with his winner. Adam Beckman had a goal and an assist for Spokane. It was the second loss in a row for the Chiefs.
The Chiefs took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission after Beckman and Erik Atchison scored. Beckman took a cross-ice pass and one-timed a laser past Tendeck at 10:55. It was Beckman’s team-leading 12th goal of the season.
Atchison camped out in front of the net and got his stick on a Bobby Russell shot to extend the lead at 14:34 for his fourth goal of the season.
But that’s all the offense Spokane could get, as the Giants clamped down on defense and generated a lot of zone time.
“They just started working a little harder and we didn’t really match that,” Beckman said.
The teams went scoreless in the second period, but the Giants spent a lot of time in Spokane’s end.
The Chiefs were playing with fire and were fortunate to be up 2-0 heading into the third. But that luck didn’t last in the third period, starting with Jacob Sourdif’s goal at 3:47. Spokane’s Noah King turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Sourdif skated in alone on Parik.
Milos Roman tied the game at 2 at 9:54 when he camped out in front of Parik and redirected a Nielsen pass.
The Giants put 14 shots on net in the third period, with Spokane getting only six on Tendeck.
“They block shots, which makes it difficult for us,” Beckman said.
The Chiefs had most of the possession in the 3-on-3 overtime period but couldn’t put a single shot on net. Vancouver put four shots on net – including the winner – with limited possession.
“Three-on-three can be kind of a toss-up and you never know which way it’s going to go,” Chiefs assistant coach Dustin Donaghy said. “We were hoping to generate some offense and one mistake cost us. We could have capitalized on a few of our possessions down in their zone, but it’s anybody’s game and they capitalized on their opportunity.”
The Chiefs had zero power-play opportunities. There were only two penalties called all game, both on Spokane – a first-period tripping call on Jack Finley and a third-period kneeing penalty on Matt Leduc.
The lack of power-play opportunities didn’t allow Spokane to generate the offense it needed.
“It’ll definitely change things in a game when it gets our guys off track,” Donaghy said. “When you deal with young athletes who get sidetracked, it throws them off their game and they’re more focused on what the refs are doing, but it definitely helps in Vancouver’s favor. We feel like we could have got a couple (calls) in our end and if we would have got a few of those, it could have changed the tide a little in our favor. But again, you get away from what we’re doing and worrying about the refs, you can’t do that in hockey.”
The Chiefs are back at the Arena on Saturday when they welcome the Victoria Royals, who were 3-1 winners in Tri-City on Friday.
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