KENNEWICK — When you only manage one shot in a period, you had better make it count.
With that one shot, rookie Patrick Holland finished off his first career hat trick with 4:31 left in the game as the Tri-City Americans defeated the Seattle Thunderbirds 3-2 on Friday before a crowd of 4,009 at Toyota Center.
"It was my night, I guess," Holland said. "I was just getting good chances. We hadn't been able to solve (Seattle goalie Calvin) Pickard all year."
Tri-City (33-11-0-1, 67 points), which also got two assists from Justin Feser, kept a firm hold on first place in the U.S. Division, leading second-place Portland and Spokane by 11 points, but the Americans' play did not sit well with coach Jim Hiller.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"How can you be happy with that?" Hiller asked. "We don't have enough players paying the price right now -- that's two consecutive nights.
Patrick got us three goals and he's a guy that's in and out of the lineup. We believe in him and we know the difference he can make. It just comes down to consistency."
Seattle (14-24-3-4, 35 points) has lost three straight, including two to the Americans. The Thunderbirds have lost 11 straight games at Toyota Center dating back to the 2007-08 season.
"I thought it was a pretty good game," said Thunderbirds coach Rob Sumner. "I thought both teams got the puck to the net and got second chances."
But it was Holland's third-period goal that was the difference. The Americans' only shot of the period.
Feser set up the play, keeping the puck in at the blue line before he headed off the ice for a change. Feser dumped the puck down in the left corner, where Neal Prokop fed it Holland.
"(Jarrett) Toll pinched and (Justin) Feser was covering for him," Holland said. "Prokop gave it to me, I went around the net and was looking to pass when I saw an opening."
It only took 56 seconds to put the first goal on the board Friday, a far cry from the 55 minutes Wednesday.
Holland, skating into the slot, took a pass out of the corner from Prokop and lifted it over Pickard's left shoulder to give the Americans a 1-0 lead.
Just 50 seconds into the second period, the Thunderbirds tied things up at 1-1 as Burke Gallimore blasted the puck past Alex Pechurskiy.
As it did Wednesday, Seattle tried to slow down the Americans, but Brooks Macek and Holland broke free for a 2-on-1 against Erik Fleming midway through the second, with Macek hitting Holland coming down the left lane. Holland beat Pickard for his second goal of the night a 10:30.
The Thunderbirds took advantage of a long shift by the Americans 21/2 minutes later, with Jeremy Schappert picking up a loose puck in front of the net and lofting it into the right corner of the net to tie the game at 2.
After Holland gave Tri-City a 3-2 lead, Seattle pulled Pickard for an extra attacker with 55 seconds left in the game, but was unable to tie the game.
Pechurskiy finished with 32 saves for the Americans to improve to 4-1-0-1 since joining the team after Christmas.
"He made some key saves when the game was on the line," Hiller said. "He and Ows (Drew Owsley) are doing a really good job for us."
A 2008 fifth-round pick of Pittsburgh, Pechurskiy will be on the bench for the Penguins in Vancouver tonight to play backup to John Curry. Starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is out with a fractured left ring finger.
Owsley will get the start for the Americans tonight against Portland. Local player Josh Romeiki, who was on the bench for two games last week for Prince George, will back up Owsley.