Tri-City coach Jim Hiller picked the perfect time to put his 300-point line back together.
Brendan Shinnimin, Adam Hughesman and Patrick Holland, who combined for 359 points during the regular season, had two goals and five assists Saturday to lead the Americans to a 5-3 victory over the Spokane Chiefs before an appreciative crowd of 4,587 at Toyota Center.
"This series, it feels like every game is Game 7," said Holland, who played with Shinnimin and Hughesman for the first time since the end of the regular season. "It's a pretty big relief to win. It felt pretty special tonight. We are up 3-2 now, which is an advantage. We still need another win, and that is the hardest one to get."
The Americans lead the best-of-7 Western Conference semifinal series 3-2. Game 6 is Monday in Spokane.
"You know what, it has been a great series, hasn't it?" Hiller said. "I thought we played probably our best game tonight and the third period was the best we've played this series. Holly was great. He hadn't had a good start to this series. He is key player for us and he was great. That elevated our whole team. It was time for him to take charge of the series and we gave him that opportunity with Shinny and Hughey."
The Chiefs held the lead three different times before the Americans scored the final three goals of the game.
"We've got to regroup," Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said. "Our backs are against the wall. Any time your back is against the wall you're going to find out what type of character you have."
Tri-City had a 4-3 lead going into the third period, and was able to hold off Spokane late in the period after the Chiefs pulled goalie Eric Williams.
Mason Wilgosh's empty-net shot with 1:20 to play was stopped in the crease by Spokane's Liam Stewart, but the Chiefs were unable to stop Connor Rankin's empty-net goal with 1 minute remaining in regulation.
In a wild second period, the Americans and Chiefs traded goals until Tri-City had the last word to take a 4-3 lead.
Tied at 1 after the first period, the Chiefs struck early as Reid Gow got his stick on a loose puck in the crease and put it in the net just 41 seconds into the action.
The Americans came back with a power-play goal by Hughesman at 7:37, then looked to add to their total with another power play at 9:48.
The Chiefs would be the one to take the lead as Steve Kuhn knocked the puck loose and Dominik Uher took it up ice. His shot glanced off the post and into the net for a short-handed goal at 11:08 for a 3-2 lead.
Spokane's lead lasted just 45 seconds as Tri-City defenseman Mitch Topping's shot from the high slot found the net to even the score.
"Sooner or later with our offensive ability it was going to go in," Hiller said. "I was happy to see that."
Tri-City would take a 4-3 lead into the break, with a little help from the Chiefs.
Justin Hamonic tried to pass the puck from the left point to the right post, but the puck hit Spokane's Collin Valcourt and flew into the net at 16:44, giving Hamonic his first WHL goal.
"I saw Macker (Nate MacMaster) going backdoor, I tried for his stick, got a good bounce and found the back of the net," Hamonic said. "Good time. It had to come soon."
"We are all so happy for him," Hiller said of Hamonic. "I don't think he's going to score too many. I'm glad he enjoyed that one."
It didn't take long for Spokane to teach the Americans a lesson about turning the puck over in their own end in the first period.
Tri-City defenseman Sam Grist lost control of the puck and after working the puck across the ice, Kuhn found an open net at the left post to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead at 4:04.
The Americans would even things up at 13:33 as Holland gathered a rebound off a shot by Hughesman and swept the puck into the net.
"It's pretty easy playing with those two guys," Holland said. "The points just come. The puck ends up on your stick a lot. Nothing to complain about playing with those two guys."
Spokane captain Darren Kramer said the Chiefs need to contain Shinnimin, Hughesman and Holland if they want to extend the series.
"It was a lot of run and gun and they've got the Big 3 with 100-plus points apiece," Kramer said. "When you don't take care of those three, they are dangerous. That is a key line and we failed to take care of them."