The Portland Winterhawks are the hottest team in the Western Hockey League as of late, and Friday night they kept the fire burning.
Nic Petan and Alex Schoenborn each had two goals and Josh Hanson had three assists as the Winterhawks scorched the Tri-City Americans 10-3 before a crowd of 4,278 at Toyota Center.
It was like our home opener with Spokane with the exact same goals, Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. There was nobody in front of our net, three guys behind our goal line and leaving somebody wide open in front of our net. It is the most basic structure you have to take care of your net front. Eric (Comrie) was left defenseless. Theres just no excuse.
With the loss, the Americans (26-23-2-3, 57 points) saw their seven-game home win streak come to an end and their lead over Prince George (23-26-2-5, 53 points) shrink to four points in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Portland (37-12-2-3), which leads the U.S. Division with 79 points, has won 11 games in a row and has points in its last 13.
Its a kind of keep things going kind of attitude, said Petan, whose team improved to 5-3 against the Americans this season. We dont take any team lightly. We never give up and it showed with those last three goals. We have depth in our scoring and everybody pitched in.
Staked to a 4-0 lead after the first period, the Winterhawks scored twice more in the second as Petan and Schoenborn each scored their second goal of the night against Evan Sarthou, who replaced Comrie after the first period.
Jessey Astles breathed a little life in the Americans in third period.
Trailing 7-0, Tri-City went on the power play, where Astles ended any thought of a shutout by Portland goalie Brendan Burke, with a goal at the 10-minute mark.
Just 37 seconds later, Michal Plutnar followed Astles lead as his shot off the left boards found its way into the net for a 7-2 game. Astles was credited with the assist.
Rookie defenseman Parker Wotherspoon added a shorthanded goal at 18:29 to pull the Americans within 7-3, but Portland was relentless, scoring three goals in the final 1:10 of the game.
We were dead all game. We won a period, but it wasnt good enough, Astles said. They have really good players and a lot of draft picks. Its always hard to play against those guys especially with our team so young. Give them credit, they have a lot of talent and they know how to score.
Portland scored it first goal at 4:36 of the opening period as Oliver Bjorkstrand beat Comrie from the slot. The Americans kept the Winterhawks quiet for the next 13 minutes.
Then the dam broke.
The Winterhawks would take advantage of defensive breakdowns by the Americans to score three goals in the last 2:09 of the period for a comfortable 4-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Petan gave Portland a 2-0 lead at 17:51, waiting out Comrie, then pulled the puck around Wotherspoon and swept it into the net.
Schoenborn made it 3-0 at 18:45, and Taylor Leier finished things off, taking a backhanded pass from Bjorkstrand and lifting the puck into the net.
It was a lousy night, and lousy is being kind, Hiller said.
Notes: Americans D Josh Thrower served the first of a two-game league suspension. He will serve the second game tonight against Spokane.