EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oil Kings refuse to be written off.
Tristan Jarry made 26 saves for his third shutout of the playoffs as the Oil Kings won their second straight game at home to even up the Western Hockey League final, coming away with a 2-0 victory over the defending champion Portland Winterhawks on Wednesday.
Mitchell Moroz and Curtis Lazar scored the goals for the Oil Kings, who have looked a lot slicker at home as they improved to 10-0 on home ice and tied the Ed Chynoweth Cup at two heading back to Portland, Ore., for Game 5 on Friday.
“At the end of the day, we know we are the underdogs in this series,” said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal. “However, we are tied 2-2 in the series going back to Portland. We are going to have to win one game in that building and our mindset is why not Friday night?
“We want to make a series of this. We want a chance to win the Western Hockey League championship. These kids have worked hard to get it to 2-2. Some people wrote us off when we were down 2-0, but you have to give our guys credit. We came out tonight with probably our best effort in the playoffs thanks to (Tristan Jarry’s) goaltending and the leadership of guys like (Griffin Reinhart).”
It was the first game of the series that the Oil Kings weren’t trailing within the first three minutes and Moroz said it was nice not to have to dig themselves out of a hole for once.
“We came out the way we wanted to in this game,” he said. “We had some chances early and didn’t capitalize, but we kept working away at it. We didn’t give up the first period goals this time, which was nice, not having to battle back like we did in the other games. “We just played our game. We stuck with it and were patient.”
The Winterhawks have lost two in a row after allowing only three losses in their previous 45 games, a string of success dating back to Jan. 11.
“We didn’t get the start that we wanted tonight,” said Portland forward Adam De Champlain. “We came out a bit flat. Having to kill seven penalties hurt us and it really allowed them to feed off their fans. When we had the momentum we had trouble sticking it. We didn’t have the energy we needed on the bench.”
It was the first time since December 2011 that the Winterhawks, who led the league with 338 goals this season, have been shut out.
“It’s playoff hockey, everyone understands the goals are harder to come by,” said Winterhawks head coach Mike Johnston.
“There are going to be moments like this. It is just a bit of adversity for us to handle right now. We just need to get through it.
“We just have to regroup. It is a best two-out-of-three series now.”
The Oil Kings had a much better start to the game than the previous three outings as they avoided allowing a goal against in the first three minutes of the matchup.
Edmonton actually had the bulk of the scoring chances in the first until the Hawks came back late.
The Oil Kings had 14 shots in the scoreless first on Portland goalie Corbin Boes, while the Winterhawks responded with 13 on Jarry, a second-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013.
Edmonton finally broke the scoring deadlock nine minutes into the second period. After sustained pressure on the shift, a Dysin Mayo shot caromed off the boards and rolled off the top of the net to Moroz in front where the Edmonton Oilers draft pick slammed his fifth goal of the playoffs past Boes.
Jarry prevented Portland from tying the game up two minutes later as Oliver Bjorkstrand picked the pocket of Reid Petryk at the Edmonton blue-line, but couldn’t beat the Oil Kings’ goalie on the partial breakaway.
The edge in shots had increased to 28-18 for Edmonton by the end of the second period.
The Oil Kings made it 2-0 six minutes into the third as Brett Pollock threw a hard pass on net on a two-on-one and Lazar was able to tip the puck through Boes’ legs. It hit the post, but then went in off of the Portland goalie’s skates to count as the Ottawa Senators prospect’s eighth goal of the playoffs.
Edmonton kept driving and it was only the heroics of Boes that kept the game close midway through the third as he stopped breakaways by Petryk and Lazar in a span of just over a minute midway through the third.
The Oil Kings thought they put the game away for good with an empty-net goal by Pollock, however the play was ruled off-side.