The Prince George Cougars, hungry for a playoff spot, took a big bite out of the Tri-City Americans on Saturday night to keep their hopes alive.
Zach Pochiro and Colin Jacobs each scored in the shootout to give the Cougars a 3-2 victory over the Americans before a crowd of 5,737 at Toyota Center.
“I thought we played pretty good, but their goalie played well and they blocked a lot of shots in front of him,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. “We didn’t give them much and we would have liked to create more. They played like a desperate team.”
The Americans (40-24-1-3, 84 points) are tied for fourth with Spokane in the Western Conference standings. They will play each other in the first round of the playoffs, but home ice advantage still is up for grabs.
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“We got a point out of it,” Hiller said. “It’s too late in the season to be negative.”
Prince George (21-38-2-6, 50 points) is four points behind Everett in the race for the final playoff spot. The Cougars have two games in hand on the Silvertips (54 points), who trail Seattle by one point.
The pesky Cougars gave the Americans fits all night.
Tri-City started the second period with a 2-1 deficit, and it took more than 14 minutes to pull even with the Cougars.
Working on their first power play in more than 73 minutes of action, the Americans took advantage of a 4-on-3 opportunity as Michal Plutnar’s shot from the slot beat Mac Engel at 14:10 for a 2-2 game.
After a scoreless third period, the game went to overtime, where the Americans had their chances on the power play midway through the extra session, but came up empty to send the game to a shootout.
Pochiro beat Troy Trombley to start the shootout, while Justin Feser overshot the net at the other end. After Jake Mykitiuk was stopped by Trombley, Connor Rankin had a shot to even things up, but lost control of the puck. Jacobs then put the puck in the net to give the Cougars the win.
“It’s exciting us,” Jacobs said of the win. “We have had our share of rough stretches during the year. Beating Tri-City is something special to us. We know this is a tough place to play. We just tried to get pucks to the net. It wasn’t a pretty game by any means, but a good effort by both teams. I’m glad we came out on top.”
After killing off a four-minute penalty to open the game, the Americans got to work offensively.
Malte Strömwall kept the puck in Prince George’s zone, dished it off to Jesse Mychan, who then zipped the puck through the crease to Feser, who beat Engel at the left post at 9:11.
The Cougars evened the score late in the period, taking advantage of a no-call by the referees.
Trombley had the puck covered at the left post, but the officials never whistled the play dead.
Prince George’s Jari Erricson reached in from behind the net, shoved his stick under Trombley’s glove and poked the puck out front to Dallas Ehrhardt, whose shot from the point flew past Trombley and into the net at 17:20 to tie the score.
The Cougars would take a 2-1 lead into the break on a goal by Erricson at 18:49.