Sometimes date night with your biggest rival is all it takes to turn your game around.
Morgan Geekie scored 28 seconds into overtime to help the Americans to a 5-4 victory Friday over the Spokane Chiefs before an enthusiastic crowd of 4,579 fans at Toyota Center, and put an end to their five-game losing streak.
“It was awesome,” said Geekie, who had two goals on the night. “It was an up and down game the last two minutes. We could have played better. It was a win we really needed.”
The Americans (39-38-3-0, 81 points) moved from eighth place to seventh in the Western Conference standings. Tri-City has two games remaining — Saturday at Spokane, and Sunday at home against Everett.
Spokane (26-33-8-3, 63 points), which did not make the playoffs, has lost its past eight games, and is 0-6 at Toyota Center this season.
The Americans led 1-0 after the first, and Spokane tied things up in the second.
Come the third, Tri-City was on fire, getting a goal from Dylan Coghlan just 22 seconds into the action, and Tyler Sandhu added another at 8:31 for a 3-1 lead.
Spokane answered with a power-play goal by Hudson Elynuik to make it 3-2 at 12:28. Just 29 seconds later, Keanu Yamamoto appeared to tie the score at 3-3, but it was ruled that the net was off its moorings.
Geekie scored his first of the night at 15:13 for a seemingly comfortable 4-2 lead, but Spokane’s Kailer Yamamoto scored two goals in the final 1:02 — including the game-tying goal with 35.8 seconds remaining in regulation.
“Both teams were desperate,” Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said. “We’re up 3-1 and 4-2 and you want to make it easy on yourself, but when you haven’t won in a bit, you are a little slow and we allowed them back in.”
In a hard-hitting first period, the nets remained empty until the the waning seconds, when Vladislav Lukin took a cross-ice pass from Parker Wotherspoon and put the puck in an open net behind Spokane goalie Jayden Sittler at 19:35.
It was the first game back for Lukin, who missed eight games with a lower-body injury after being injured Feb. 18.
“It feels so good,” Lukin said of being back on the ice. “You feel bad when you can’t help. It’s a good experience to go through that and come out and score a goal. We all support each other. This is a good team this year.”
Williamson, for one was happy to Lukin and James back in uniform.
The Americans also welcomed back Max James, who missed three games. James laid some big hits and created havoc for the Chiefs.
“It added so much for them to work hard to get back in the lineup,” Williamson said. “That showed tonight.”
Added Geekie: “They both bring some different dynamics out there,” he said. “Max makes his presence felt, and Vladislav getting on the score sheet was great.”
Wotherspoon looked to put the Americans on the board with about 8 minutes left in the first, but the puck did not completely cross the goal line.
Spokane had two power plays in the first, but had two shots on goal between the two and came up empty.
Tri-City thought it had taken a 2-0 lead at 8:04 of the second as Parker AuCoin beat Sittler in the slot on the power play. Officials waved the the goal off, saying James had contact with the Spokane goalie.
The Chiefs tied the score at 16:52 on the power play as Kailer Yamamoto picked up a rebound and beat Evan Sarthou, who was down in the crease after making the initial save. Sarthou finished with 32 saves.
Americans 5, Chiefs 4 (OT)
First — 1, TC, Lukin 25 (Wotherspoon, AuCoin), 19:35. Penalties — Olson, TC (high-sticking), 10:35; Yorke, TC (tripping), 15:52.
Second — 2, Spo, Ka.Yamamoto 40 (Elynuik, Smith), 16:52 (pp). Penalties —Najman, Spo (hooking), 6:16; Ke.Yamamoto, SPo (cross-checking), 9:09; Sandhu, TC (slashing), 16:25.
Third — 3, TC, Coghlan 14 (Geekie, Topping), :22. 4, TC, Sandhu 22 (Olson, Coghlan), 8:31. 5, Spo, Elynuik 28 (Ke.Yamamoto, Anderson-Dolan), 12:28 (pp). 6, TC, Geekie 33 (Lukin, O’Reilly), 15:13. 7, Spo, Ka.Yamamoto 41 (Elynuik), 18:58. 8, Spo, Ka.Yamamoto 42 (Ke.Yamamoto, Smith), 19:25. Penalties — Najman, Spo (tripping), 2:31; Ross, Spo (charging), 9:51; Lukin, TC (hooking), 11:34; Lukin, TC (elbowing), 12:49; McIndoe, Spo, double minor (roughing), 18:48; Wotherspoon, TC, double minor (roughing), 18:48.
Overtime — 9, TC, Geekie 34 (Topping, Välimäki), :28. Penalties — None.
Shots — Spo 14-8-14-0 — 36. TC 8-11-12-1 — 32. Power plays — Spo 2-5. TC 0-4. Goalies — Spo, Sittler 15-17-4-1 (32 shots-27 saves). TC, Sarthou 11-8-2-0 (36-32). Referees — Kevin Bennett and Jeff Ingram. A — 4,579.