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Winterhawks take command of WHL final with win over Oil Kings

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Edmonton Oil Kings had to play catch-up for most of their game against the Portland Winterhawks Sunday.

After losing 3-1 and falling behind 2-0 in their Western Hockey League playoff series, the Oil Kings will have to claw their way out of an even deeper hole now.

“We got behind the eight-ball early, and you can’t play catch-up hockey against a team like Portland,” said Edmonton forward Curtis Lazar.

Brendan Leipsic had a goal and an assist in his return from a one-game suspension, and Chase De Leo and Paul Bitter also scored to give Portland the win. Goaltender Corbin Boes made 28 saves.

Henrik Samuelsson scored a third-period goal for Edmonton, which got 29 saves from Tristan Jarry in defeat.

Portland scored twice in the first 3:14 of regulation and led 3-0 through two periods. The Oil Kings pulled one back in the third but struggled to generate quality scoring chances throughout the game.

“I thought we had a good push, but we were chasing the game right off the hop,” Edmonton head coach Derek Laxdal said. “We had some offensive zone time, but we weren’t willing to shoot the puck in areas to generate second-chance opportunities.”

Games 3 and 4 will be played Tuesday and Wednesday in Edmonton.

The Winterhawks and Oil Kings are meeting for the third straight time in the WHL final, and this is the first time the series hasn’t been 1-1 heading into Game 3.

Portland has now won 24 straight games at home, including all eight in the post-season. The Winterhawks last lost on home ice on Jan. 4. Overall, Portland has won 42 of its last 45 games dating to the regular season.

“You definitely want to win at home, it gives you momentum and an edge,” said Portland head coach Mike Johnston.

“But we know how close the series is and how hard it’s going to be to win in Edmonton.”

De Leo opened the scoring 2:12 into the game with a long wrist shot that squeezed between the pads of Jarry.

Leipsic scored his 13th goal of the playoffs 1:02 later to give Portland a 2-0 lead and force the Oil Kings to burn their timeout.

Bittner made it 3-0 at the 4:32 mark of the second period as his shot from just inside the blue-line hit Oil Kings defenceman Dysin Mayo and fluttered into the net.

Samuelsson gave the Oil Kings a glimmer of hope when he deflected a shot by Ashton Sautner past Boes for a power-play goal with 6:28 remaining in regulation.

“In the third, we could’ve managed the puck a little better,” said Leipsic, who missed Portland’s 5-2 Game 1 victory due to a major penalty he received in Game 5 of the Western Conference final against Kelowna. “They came with a good push and we had to weather the storm a bit.”

Edmonton couldn’t pull any closer, though, despite the spirited charge in the final minutes.

“It was too little, too late,” said Lazar.

The Oil Kings finished 1 for 3 with the man advantage, while Portland failed to convert on four power play opportunities.

 
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