SPOKANE -- With two stingy goalies on the ice, teams have to take advantage of every opportunity.
The Tri-City Americans did just that, scoring two goals in the first period, and getting 24 saves from Ty Rimmer to hold off the Spokane Chiefs 2-1 on Wednesday night at Spokane Arena to take a 2-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinals series.
"Two teams going at it. I think the emotion of the rivalry brings everybody's level up," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. "It must be fun to watch. I think both teams are playing well defensively, and when there are breakdowns, and there always are, the goalies have done a pretty good job."
The Chiefs managed just one goal on 25 shots, and were 0-for-3 on the power play.
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"The difference is, we have to play better," Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said. "We aren't going to beat Tri-City the way we played tonight and I think our guys understand that. We've got to be sharper around their net. Or I should say, sharper in their end."
The best-of-seven series continues Friday with Game 4 at Spokane Arena, while Game 5 is Saturday at the Toyota Center.
Trailing 2-0 entering the third period, Spokane's Mitch Holmberg tried to get the Chiefs on the board early in the period as his shot from the right baseline got behind Rimmer at 5:59. Replays showed the puck sitting on the goal line, but it has to be completely over the line to count.
"There was a space between my skate blade and the post and it snuck through," Rimmer said of the play. "(Derek) Ryckman was there and he said it was right on the line. He cleared it out of there."
The Chiefs would get one past Rimmer later in the period as Reid Gow's shot was blocked, and when Rimmer dived to get the rebound, Steve Kuhn lifted the puck into the net at 12:16.
Spokane pulled goalie Eric Williams twice late in the third, but were unable to tie the game.
"It's unfortunate," said Williams, who suffered his second consecutive loss. "Our team battles hard. (Rimmer) has played well down there to keep them in games. It's my job to give us a chance to win. Two (goals) is too many. We have to get it down to one or none to win."
The Chiefs came out and took control early in the first, getting a couple of power plays, but it didn't take long for the Americans to come alive.
Patrick Holland got the sparks flying with a short-handed breakaway at 8:28, and even though he came up short, the energy was flowing.
Shortly after the Americans killed off Spokane's second power play, Nate MacMaster picked up a rebound off a shot by Justin Feser and had a wide open net behind Williams at the left post to give the Americans a 1-0 lead at 9:20.
Adam Hughesman was in position to give Tri-City a 2-0 lead, but he couldn't get control of the puck at the right post. The puck was sent around the net, where Mitch Topping was able to get it to Brendan Shinnimin, who lifted the puck into the net behind Williams at 14:56.
"We got a couple of greasy goals going to the net and finding rebounds," Shinnimin said. "I think we had good chances. We aren't passing up many shots. This is playoff hockey, it's tough to score. When you get your chances, you have to bear down if you want to win and we did that tonight."
Spokane, which at one point held an 8-2 shot advantage, had just one shot on goal the last 10 minutes of the period.
A scoreless second period was highlighted by some dandy saves from Rimmer and Williams, who combined for 17 saves.
"It's great to get a win in this building," Rimmer said. "They played us hard all night. It was a 60-minute battle. We feel fortunate to come out on top."