Mac Carruth made 38 saves on 42 shots Tuesday night at the Rose Garden. He never saw the 42nd shot that tied the series.
Rhett Rachinski scored his second goal of the night, nine minutes into overtime and the Edmonton Oil Kings held off a fierce Portland rally to win 4-3, and even the series at two games apiece.
The Oil Kings had the first scoring chance when a shot from Kristians Pelss got past Carruth, but deflected off the left goal post. On the ensuing break, Troy Rutkowski made a beautiful feed into the Oil Kings zone, and Marcel Noebels took it to give the Winterhawks a 1-0 lead.
The two teams would trade opportunities, but Carruth and his counterpart Laurent Brossoit took turns fending them off. Oil Kings star Michael St. Croix came in hard on Carruth, who managed to make two tremendous saves. At the other end, Oliver Gabriel led a two-on-one, but Brossoit caught his shot.
The energy level was high at the start of the game at a sold out Rose Garden, where only the Kamloops Blazers and Tri-City Americans had beaten the Winterhawks this season, but when Rachinski scored on a centering feed from Jordan Peddle to tie the game at 1, the energy seemed to drain out of the building.
The Oil Kings pressured through the remainder of the first, and well into the second period. The defense was unable to clear the zone effectively, and the Oil Kings kept the pressure on Carruth. Finally, Tyler Maxwell caught Carruth off-guard, scoring on a wraparound goal to give the Oil Kings a 2-1 lead. Stephanie Legault would add another one near the end of the second off a rebounded shot from Mark Pysyk.
Before the game, Edmonton coach Derek Laxdal called Sven Bartschi “the best player in junior hockey”. When the Hawks came out for the third, Bartschi decided to prove it.
Three minutes into the third, Bartschi took a centering feed from Noebels, and beat Brossoit glove side to cut the lead to 3-2. Six minutes later, Derrick Pouliot fired a pass into the crease, and Bartschi managed to get it past Brossoit despite falling over during the shot, evening the score at 3.
The Winterhawks had a chance to take the lead, when a slap shot from the point by Tyler Wotherspoon trickled behind Brossoit and sat near the goal line. Only quick thinking by defenseman Martin Gernat, who slapped the puck underneath Brossoit, managed to keep the game tied.
The game went into overtime, where Carruth held his own, stopping a breakaway chance by Curtis Lazar, but when the Oil Kings pressured, Jordan Peddle screened Carruth, and he never saw Rachinski’s turnaround shot that gave the Oil Kings a 4-3 win.
The Portland Winterhawks style has been described as “outscoring their problems”. But when they failed to win face-offs (Edmonton won 74% of them in Game Four) or when they failed to clear the zone, their energy level plummeted, resulting in far too many scoring chances for the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The Winterhawks have the talent to win this series. All that is left is to do it. Game Five will be Thursday night in Edmonton.