KENNEWICK -- In a game that could have a been a sneak preview of the upcoming playoffs, the Tri-City Americans showed the Chilliwack Bruins who had the upper hand Friday night.
Mason Wilgosh and Neal Prokop returned from the injured list, and each scored a goal to help the Americans beat the red-hot Bruins 6-1 before a crowd of 5,929 at Toyota Center.
"We wanted to make sure we played our game, and we did," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, whose team won the season series against Chilliwack 3-1. "Right through the lineup, everyone contributed, we were physical and we were fast."
The Americans (42-24-2-2, 88 points) rebounded from Wednesday's lackluster performance against Everett to outshoot the Bruins 51-29 and generated some much-needed confidence going into tonight's home game against rival Spokane.
Never miss a local story.
"After the first, we were saying 'this is how we play,' " said Americans goalie Drew Owsley, who had 28 saves in earning his 35th win. "We are back and we fed off the energy in the building. It was a boost to get Wilgs and Proks back, and (Drydn) Dow's goal was huge for us. He doesn't get a lot of credit; it's nice to see him rewarded."
Chilliwack (32-31-4-4, 72 points), which had earned points in its last 10 games, ran out of puck luck Friday. The Bruins still are one point ahead of Vancouver in the standings, but where Chilliwack has just one game left, the Giants have two.
Chilliwack goalie Lucas Gore stopped the first 60 shots he faced Wednesday before giving up a goal to Spokane.
Friday, Dow, a defenseman-turned-forward, beat Gore just 2:37 into the game on the Americans' fourth shot on goal, and Gore had no one to blame but himself.
David Conrad had the puck behind the net and tried to pull it around in the slot. Gore poke-checked the puck 15 feet out into the slot, where Dow gathered it up and whipped it into the net for his third goal of the season.
Wilgosh, who missed 11 games, scored short-handed, getting a little help from Kruise Reddick.
Reddick checked Chilliwack's Kevin Sundher into the boards, popped the puck loose and fed it to Wilgosh, who tallied his 12th goal of the season at 16:22 and sent a wave of energy through the lineup.
"I think I'm always out there working hard, giving us energy with blocked shots or a hit," Wilgosh said. "I don't think they expected us to be at our best our first game back. To score a big goal helps everyone get into the game."
Jamie Crooks score the Bruins' lone goal with one minute left in the first period, then Owsley hung a close sign on the goal.
"The pucks just seemed to find my glove," Owsley said.
Justin Feser and Zach Yuen scored in the first 5:40 of the second period to give the Americans a 4-1 lead, and Carter Ashton made it 5-1, beating Gore with nine-tenths of a second left in the period.
Gore, who had 30 saves after two periods, took a seat on the bench in the third and watched backup Braden Gamble stop 15 of 16 shots.
The one that got past Gamble was by Prokop, who had missed 28 games after being hurt Jan. 14 against Kamloops. With a nice assist from rookie Connor Rankin, Prokop potted his fourth goal of the year at 11:02 on the power play.
"It's been a long time coming," said Prokop, who had played just 15 games before getting hurt. "It felt good to get in before the playoffs. I didn't have much practice time, I just jumped into it. It was nice to contribute. Willie and me, we are older guys and can help give the team a little confidence."
* Annie Fowler: 509-582-1574; firstname.lastname@example.org