KENNEWICK — The Tri-City Americans had their way with the Vancouver Giants during the regular season.
But as Tri-City learned Friday night, that means nothing in the playoffs.
Giants goalie Mark Segal finished with 42 saves, Greg Lamoureux scored the game-winner and Vancouver's penalty kill was in rare form in a 4-2 win over the Americans in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals before a crowd of 3,899 at Toyota Center.
"Mark was very good tonight," said Giants coach Don Hay, whose team improved to 6-0 on the road during the playoffs. "He competed hard on pucks and he was really solid. I think it was his best game of the playoffs."
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Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is tonight at Toyota Center.
Tri-City outshot Vancouver 44-23, but a woeful 2-for-9 effort on the power play drew boos from the home crowd in the third period.
"I thought we could have had seven or eight goals tonight. We had plenty of chances around the net," said Americans coach Jim Hiller. "Don't get me wrong; there were times we didn't execute. I'm careful not to judge the game by the score. We'll be back (tonight) and hopefully our opportunities will go in."
Segal said he felt confident despite the constant pressure by the Americans.
"I've struggled early in the playoffs, but after the Portland series my comfort level is up there now," Segal said. "Tri-City is a good team and for us to win Game 1 is huge. We want to get another and head home. We won't be satisfied with a split."
Vancouver, which led 3-2 after two periods, added a goal by Tomas Vincour at 10:28 of the third on the power play to pull away for good.
"They played a good game with a lot of energy," said Tri-City defenseman Tyler Schmidt. "We've got to come back and play better and bear down on our chances."
The Americans had their chances the last eight minutes of the game as the Giants handed them a 5-on-3 power play. But Tri-City got just one shot on goal as Vancouver collapsed in and helped out Segal.
"That 5-on-3 was the key to the game and we killed it," Hay said.
The Giants, who were a little sloppy in the first, came out poised in the second and took a 3-2 lead with a pair of goals in a span of 2:33.
Brendan Gallagher tied the game at 1:45, and Greg Lamoureux put the Giants ahead for good at 4:18 with his first goal of the playoffs.
"I thought we were a little too sloppy in the neutral zone in the second and we couldn't get any offensive pressure," Hiller said.
For those who were late to the game, they missed Schmidt's power-play goal just 35 seconds in off a nice pass from Brendan Shinnimin, who sent the puck from the left post to the right, where Schmidt had skated in and had an open net behind Segal.
The Giants tied the game at 16:42 as the puck took a couple of wild bounces before it slipped in at the right post.
Vancouver's Neil Manning shot the puck from the right point and the puck ricocheted up in the air off Drew Owsley's mask. James Henry was there to put the puck in the net.
It looked as if the puck went in the net off Henry's glove, but video replay showed the puck hit his glove, dropped to the ice and he poked it in with his stick.
Schmidt gave the Americans a 2-1 lead with 31 seconds left in the first period on an identical play as his first goal, only this time the pass came from Adam Hughesman.
"We know that Tri-City starts quick," Hay said. "For us to take that penalty on the first shift and they score put us behind the 8-ball. Even when they went up 2-1, we got better as the game went on."
Nolan Toigo added three assists for the Giants, who were 1-for-7 on the power play as the Americans' penalty kill continued to shut down opponents. Tri-City has allowed just three goals while being a man short 26 times over the last six games.