Hawks down Oil Kings 4-3

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 12:05 PM ET

EDMONTON - What had been a source of strength for the Edmonton Oil Kings this season is being exposed as a liability in the WHL final.

On Sunday, the Oil Kings defence had an other tough outing in a 4-3 loss to the Portland Winterhawks in front of a sold-out crowd of 10,497 at the Rose Garden.

With the win the Winterhawks take a 2-1 best-of-seven series lead.

Game 4 of the series goes Tuesday in Portland.

Sven Bartschi, Ty Rattie, Oliver Gabriel and Brendan Leipsic scored for the Winterhawks, while goaltender Mac Carruth turned away 34 shots in the win. Erik Samuelsson, Martin Gernat and Keegan Lowe countered for the Oil Kings.

The loss marked only the second time since mid-November the Oil Kings had suffered back-to-back defeats.

After winning 22 consecutive games, dating back to the regular season the Oil Kings have now lost three of their last five.

Things started well enough for the visitors as they were able to keep pace with the Winterhawks, who were bolstered by the return of Rattie.

The leading scorer in this year’s playoffs had been knocked out of the lineup after taking a hit from Mitchell Moroz in the opening game of the series Thursday.

Rattie skated with the Winterhawks for the first time since the hit Sunday morning and was declared good to go following the warmup Sunday night.

Going into the contest, the St. Louis Blues prospect had 17 goals and 30 points in 16 games to lead the WHL in playoff scoring.

He broke a Winterhawks franchise record by netting his 18th goal of the post-season in the second period.

Rattie’s goal followed Bartschi’s opener just under five minutes into the second period. The Winterhawks winger took a gift from Gernat just inside the Oil Kings blue-line, went in and lifted a backhand over the shoulder of goaltender Laurent Brossoit.

It was a costly unforced error by Gernat, who had lost an edge moments early, but recovered and was essentially unmolested when he put the puck on Bartschi’s stick.

Just over eight minutes later Rattie doubled the lead on the power play, taking a pass from Joseph Morrow who was parked just inside the Oil Kings blue-line, found a seam between Griffin Reinhart and Travis Ewanyk.

Rattie fired a shot past Brossoit as he was taking a slash from Ewanyk, which put the Winterhawks back on the power play following the goal.

They needed just 29 seconds to make their advantage count, scoring on a similarly-designed play, this time executed by Gabriel and Tyler Wotherspoon, splitting Mark Pysyk and Lowe.

The Winterhawks had dominated the period to that point and should have gone even further ahead were it not for a great save by Brossoit to keep the deficit at three.

Following Brossoit’s stop, Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal called a time out to try and calm his troops. The move stopped the bleeding temporarily as the Oil Kings got out of the period down three goals while being out-shot 15-5 in the frame.

In the third, the Oil Kings pulled one back early as Samuelsson took a Gernat feed and snapped it past Carruth 20 seconds in.

The Winterhawks, however, restored their three-goal lead after a turnover by Oil Kings defenceman Cody Corbett behind his own net. Corbett did well to win a battle in the corner, but then had his rim attempt intercepted by Cam Reid who centred it in front to an open Leipsic.

At that point it looked as though the Winterhawks were free and clear, but the Oil Kings had other ideas as Gernat snapped a shot past Carruth to cut into the lead. Lowe then scored just over three minutes later to pull the Oil Kings to within a goal, setting up for an exciting finish.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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