Sports

Western Conference finals: Buckle up, it's going to be a wild ride

Tri-City's Max James celebrates after giving the Americans a 4-3 lead Saturday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. Tri-City beat Everett 5-3 to even the series at 1-1.
Tri-City's Max James celebrates after giving the Americans a 4-3 lead Saturday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. Tri-City beat Everett 5-3 to even the series at 1-1. Courtesy of the Everett Silvertips

Hockey fans, we have a series.

Parker AuCoin scored twice, and Max James scored the game winner at 12:29 of the third period to lead the Tri-City Americans to a 5-3 victory Saturday over the Everett Silvertips in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

The best-of-7 series is tied at one game apiece. Game 3 is Monday at Toyota Center, with Game 4 on Thursday.

Tied at 3-3 midway through the third period, James skated down the slot, went left to right and swept the puck past Everett goalie Carter Hart.

Michael Rasmussen would add an empty-net goal with 22 seconds remaining to put the game out of reach. Rasmussen has scored at least one point in all 10 of the Americans' playoff games.

"We showed a lot of character coming back," Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said. "It's big to come up here and get a split. They are a team that plays well on the road. This series is going to develop a flavor of its own. There is a lot on the line."

Everett's Matt Fonteyne scored the first goal of the game at 7:34 of the first, only to have AuCoin tie things up 5 minutes later.

The Silvertips went back out front 2-1 on a Patrick Bajkov goal. The lead would hold until the end of the period.

Tri-City's Jordan Topping scored the lone goal of the second period to make it 2-2 after 40 minutes of play.

It was a wild west shootout in the third. AuCoin, with his second of the night, gave the Americans a 3-2 lead — their first of the series. Garrett Pilon would score for Everett before James and Rasmussen found the net.

It was James' first goal since Feb. 17 against Spokane.

"He and Coiner (AuCoin) and (Riley) Sawchuk have been a huge part of us getting this far," Williamson said. "They do a lot for us to have success. They play against top lines, kill penalties and wear teams down. They are valuable whether they score or not."

Patrick Dea finished with 37 saves for Tri-City, including 11 in the third period with the game on the line, while Juuso Välimäki, Isaac Johnson and Dylan Coghlan each had two assists.

"They really pushed," Williamson said of the Silvertips. "They had some good chances, but Patty stood tall and made some huge saves for us."

Hart finished with 22 saves for the Silvertips.

Americans 5, Silvertips 3

Tri-City

1

1

3

5

Everett

2

0

1

3

First — 1, Evt, Fonteyne 5 (Dewar, Davis), 7:34 (pp). 2, TC, AuCoin 2 (Välimäki, Johnson), 12:29. 3, Evt, Bajkov 8 (Davis, Pilon), 14:37 (pp). Penalties — Rasmussen, TC (high-sticking), 6:02; Richards, Evt (holding), 8:53; Topping, TC (boarding), 13:04; Yaremko, TC (delay of game), 13:47; Vala, Evt, (interference), 14:49.

Second — 4, TC, Topping 3 (Johnson), 12:02. Penalties — Sutter, Evt (slashing), 3:50.

Third — 5, TC, AuCoin 3 (Välimäki, Gatenby), 10:19. 6, Evt, Pilon 9 (Fonteyne), 11:25. 7, TC, James 1 (AuCoin, Coghlan), 12:29. 8, TC, Rasmussen 12 (Coghlan), 19:38. Penalties —Yaremko, TC (roughing), 1:57; Bajkov, Evt (misconduct), 19:38.

Shots — TC 9-13-5 — 27. Evt 20-8-12 — 40. Power plays — TC 0-3. Evt 2-4. Goalies — TC, Dea 8-1 (40 shots-37 saves). Evt, Hart 9-2-1 (26-22). Referees — Steve Papp and Reagan Vetter. A — 6,401.

Annie Fowler: 582-1574; @tchicequeen

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