KENNEWICK -- In a wild west shootout for the top spot in the U.S. Division, the Tri-City Americans held off the Portland Winterhawks on Wednesday night to remain in the driver's seat.
Mitch Topping scored the game winner with 2:19 left in regulation, and Adam Hughesman had a five-point night with a goal and four assists in a 7-6 victory before an announced crowd of 4,229 at Toyota Center.
"A wild night, without a doubt," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, whose team is 4-0 against Portland this season. "Not the finest display of tactical hockey, but (Portland) is an excellent team."
Trailing 6-5 with time running out, Tri-City's Malte Strmwall scored at 17:24 to even things at 6-all. Just 17 seconds later, Topping's shot from the point found the net to give the Americans (17-6-0-0, 34 points) the lead for good.
"Shinny (Brendan Shinnimin) made a good pass, I had a lane and it went in," Topping said. "It was an unbelievable atmosphere in the rink tonight. It was a crazy game. With a good team like Portland, they can turn it on. We showed our resilience as a team."
The Winterhawks (15-9-1-1, 32 points) pulled goaltender Mac Carruth for an extra attacker the last 1:18 of the game, but couldn't get the equalizer.
"We got the win. It doesn't matter how we got it," Hughesman said. "In games like this, it's not over until the final buzzer. They played a great game and we are lucky to get the two points tonight."
With the score tied at 4 to start the third, Hughesman put the Americans up 5-4 with a power-play goal just 24 seconds into the period.
Tri-City held the lead until 8:16 when Joe Morrow's shot from the point skipped off Ty Rimmer's right pad and into the net.
The Americans started the second with a 5-on-3 power play for 1:32, but just 20 seconds into the action, Sven Bartschi scored his second of the night short-handed to put the Winterhawks up 2-0.
Continuing on the power play, Shinnimin beat Carruth on the door step at 1:08, and Connor Rankin tied the score at 2 at 6:26, picking up a loose puck, wheeling around the net and backhanding the puck into the net.
Justin Feser gave Tri-City its first lead of the game 28 seconds later, shooting the puck off the left wall at the hash marks and beating Carruth under his right arm for his 10th goal of the season.
Just when the Americans thought they had turned the momentum their way, Portland's Ty Rattie scored twice in a span of 3:07 to give the Winterhawks a 4-3 lead.
Jordan Messier connected on the power play at 12:21 to even things up heading into the third period.
The Americans outshot the Winterhawks 20-9 in the second and had seven power plays -- but converted on just two.
Rimmer kept the Winterhawks in check in the first period, stopping 19 shots before Bartschi took a pass across the slot from Rattie and beat Rimmer stick side over his right pad at 18:19.
Before the goal, the Americans had killed off two Portland power plays and Rimmer stymied Rattie on a breakaway at 15:30.