May 9, 2012
Oil Kings even up series
By Derek Van Diest, Edmonton Sun
PORTLAND — The Edmonton Oil Kings got their split, but they had to put in an extra effort for it.
On Tuesday, the Oil Kings evened the Western Hockey League championship series with a 4-3 overtime win over the Portland Winterhawks.
Rhett Rachinski scored the winner 9:07 into the extra frame — his second of the game — for the Oil Kings, who had blown a two-goal lead after Winterhawks winger Sven Bartschi took his game to another level in the third period.
“Coach was just telling the guys just to put the puck on net,” Rachinski said. “It was kind of a weird play I think Mitch (Moroz) tried to dump it in and it something and bounced right back to me. I just kind of came off the wall and saw an opportunity to shoot, and to be honest, I didn’t even see it go in.
“Once I saw the reaction from the guys, it was a pretty special feeling.”
The win restores home-ice advantage for the Oil Kings, who will host the Winterhawks Thursday at Rexall Place in a pivotal fifth game.
In Game 4, the Winterhawks did a much better job of taking care of the puck in their own end than they had in the previous two games.
After a nervous start and some adjustments on their back end, the Oil Kings kept the turnovers to well under a baker’s half dozen then utilized their speed to keep the Winterhawks on their heels.
Tyler Maxwell and Stephane Legault also scored for the Oil Kings, while goaltender Laurent Brossoit held the fort at the other end, making 39 saves.
Marcel Noebels scored the other goal for the Winterhawks.
“What a hockey game to coach,” said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal. “It was a huge win for us. We wanted to come in here and get the split and we were able to do that.
“Now it’s a three-game series. It’s been a great series so far and I don’t expect anything less for the rest of it.”
The Oil Kings got off to a rough start as Winterhawks defenceman Troy Rutkowski hit Noebels with a great breakaway pass, originating inside the home team’s blue line.
Noebels went in and snapped a shot over the glove of Brossoit, who had seen just one other shot prior to the goal.
The goal put the Oil Kings in an early hole, but they responded well after the club decided that their third defensive pairing of Ashton Sautner and Ryan Dech were having too much difficulty keeping up with the Winterhawks top lines.
“We decided to shorten our bench and go with three lines and five defenceman,” Laxdal said. “Our guys are tired a little bit, but this is a championship series, and you have to play your best players and give them some ice time.
“Our guys were outstanding. It was a huge game for us and it’s going to be a great finish to the series.”
Toward the end of the period, the Oil Kings tied the game as Rachinski and Peddle cycled the puck in the corner on a four-on-four situation.
The lead could have been extended had it not been for a pair of goalposts and a handful of outstanding saves from Winterhawks goaltender Mac Carruth.
In the second, Maxwell increased the Oil Kings’ lead after dominating the period territorially. The Oil Kings centre caught Carruth looking the wrong way coming around the net and was able to slip the puck into the open side.
Legault added a third just before the end of the period, getting to a loose puck in front and snapping it past Carruth.
The Winterhawks took it to a new level in the third, as Bartschi decided to get involved.
The Calgary Flames prospect beat Legault just under four minutes in, taking a centring pass off his skate and sliding it through the Oil Kings goaltender.
He then tied the game beating Rachinski to the front of the net and converting a centring feed from Derrick Pouliot, who was able to get outside of Keegan Lowe.
Bartschi nearly scored a third, but Oil Kings defenceman Martin Gernat did enough to put the winger off, as he tried to convert a centring pass.
Portland could have won the game in regulation, but Brossoit was able to make an incredible save on Cam Reid, stretching out a pad to get a piece of a shot after the puck bounced back to the Winterhawks forward after an attempted centring pass.
Rachinski scored the winner after picking up a loose puck in the Winterhawks zone, spinning and snapping a shot past Carruth.