KENNEWICK -- Alex Pechurskiy is just as good off the bench as he is when he gets the start.
After the Tri-City Americans gave up two goals in less than 5 minutes to the Vancouver Giants on Friday night, Pechurskiy replaced Drew Owsley in net and stopped all 25 shots he faced in backing the Americans' 4-2 victory before an appreciative crowd of 5,185 at Toyota Center.
"That wasn't on Drew at all," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, whose team has won six in a row and is a league best 22-4-0-0 on home ice. "Clearly, he was helpless. We needed to be better as a team -- we needed to change things up, and you don't have a lot of options. Alex made some key saves out there."
Pechurskiy (6-1-0-1), who has played in just eight games since he arrived from Russia in December, was not intimidated by the B.C. Division-leading Giants.
"Today was not an easy game," Pechurskiy said through his agent, Gary Greenstin. "(But) my first game was the toughest."
Tri-City (36-11-0-1, 73 points), which leads the U.S. Division and Western Conference, took a four-point lead over Saskatoon in the WHL standings after the Blades lost to Kootenay on Friday.
"There is a lot of hockey left, but we like how our team has improved," Hiller said. "We have a ways to go, but we are on the right path."
Vancouver (29-18-1-2, 61 points) has dropped two in a row and is 0-3 against the Americans this season.
"It was a good game," said Giants coach Don Hay. "I thought both teams played hard, both competed, but they capitalized on our mistakes. I thought their goalie (Pechurskiy) making a save on (Lance) Bouma when it was 2-2 played a big part, and their fourth goal caught us in a bad line change."
Just 30 seconds after the Americans tied the game at 2, Pechurskiy robbed Bouma with a glove save on a short-handed breakaway, and 3 1/2 minutes after that, Justin Feser put what would be the game-winning goal in the net.
Feser's goal came at 12:07 of the first as he picked off an errant pass by Vancouver's Dillon Scholten and beat Giants goalie Mark Segal up high.
"There weren't a ton of chances either way," said Hiller, whose team was outshot 29-26. "Both teams respect each other, but if you make a mistake it will cost you."
If you were standing in line for a beverage at the start of the game, you missed the beginning of a fast-paced period that featured four power-play goals.
Tyler Schmidt scored 47 seconds into the game on the man advantage to give the Americans a 1-0 lead just 5 seconds into the power play.
Brendan Shinnimin won the face-off, Adam Hughesman picked up the puck, passed it to Kruise Reddick, who slid it out to Schmidt at the right point. Schmidt brought the puck to the top of the slot and fired it past Segal.
Vancouver took a 2-1 lead less than 5 minutes into the period as Neil Manning scored power-play goals at 2:04 and 4:54, but the lead would be short-lived.
Sergei Drozd took a couple of hacks at the puck before it snuck in the net past Segal to tie the game at 7:56, and Feser's goal followed soon after.
The second period was just as fast and furious, but the only goal came at 16:17 as Pechurskiy sent the puck up ice to Jarrett Toll, who then passed it to Hughesman, who had a 3-on-1 with Johnny Lazo and Shinnimin.
Lazo's sharp-angled shot went far side and beat Segal over his glove.
The third period was scoreless as the Americans killed off two Vancouver power plays and weathered the storm after the Giants pulled Segal with 1:20 left in the game.