PORTLAND -- The Tri-City Americans stayed one step ahead of the rest of the U.S. Division on Tuesday night with a key win over the Portland Winterhawks.
Alex Pechurskiy finished with 52 saves and Brooks Macek had a pair of goals as the Americans improved to 8-1 against the Winterhawks with a 5-1 victory at the Rose Garden.
"It was a big win, there's no other way to describe it," said Americans coach Jim Hiller.
The Americans (45-18-1-2, 93 points) maintained their four-point lead over Everett (42-19-3-2, 89 points), which beat Kamloops on Tuesday. Both teams have six games remaining.
"It's getting close to the end, but we aren't going to get too far ahead of ourselves," Hiller said.
With the loss, Portland (40-24-2-1, 83 points) took itself out of the running for the U.S. Division title. The Winterhawks are 10 points behind the Americans with five games to play, but the Americans hold all the tie-breakers.
"They are a good team and they will always be dangerous," said Hiller, whose team returns to Portland on Saturday.
Portland opened the scoring at 19:13 of the first period with a power-play goal by Nino Niederreiter, but that would be all Pechurskiy would allow.
The Americans came out on fire in the second as Justin Feser scored 15 seconds into the action. Macek scored his first of the night less than 2 minutes later, and Jordan Messier gave Tri-City a 3-1 lead at 2:46 with his 20th goal of the season.
Macek scored his second of the night and 20th of the season just 3:16 into the third, and Neal Prokop finished the scoring at 10:19.