Kennewick, WA- Tri-City is usually explosive on the annual CH2M Hill Nuclear Night.
Instead, it was the Portland Winterhawks (39-7-1-2, 81 pts) that dropped an atomic bomb on the Tri-City Americans (28-19-1-2, 59 pts), earning a 7-0 win over the Americans in front of 6,100 at the Toyota Center.
The loss is the largest margin of defeat this season for the Americans. This is the second time this season the Americans have been shutout, the other being a 6-0 loss in Portland back in October. This is the first loss for the Americans on Nuclear Night.
Portland came out and set the pace early, playing fast and keeping puck possession for most of the period. Luke Lee-Knight played outstanding in the first period, making some incredible saves. He stopped the first 14 shots thrown at him, but the Winterhawks finally broke through as Oliver Bjorkstrand fired a rebound into the net to take a 1-0 lead. Tri-City had some chances to score on the doorstep but couldn't convert. Portland outshot Tri-City in the period 16-13 and had the lead after one.
Portland poured it on during a two minute stretch midway through the second. Seth Jones started the scoring on a slap shot from the blue line to make it 2-0. A minute later, Brendan Leipsic scored to increase the lead to three. Nicolas Petan capped the scoring in the second period 43 seconds later as he lasered a snap shot from the slot into the goal to make it 4-0 Portland. The period belonged to Portland, as Tri-City only managed three shots in the period and had to kill off four penalties.
The Winterhawks continued to roll in the third period. Bjorkstrand fired a wrist shot off the crossbar and into the net just over two minutes into the third period to make it 5-0. Leipsic scored his second goal of the game midway through the period and Portland ended the scoring as Bjorkstrand completed his hat trick with less than three minutes to go in the game. Tri-City fought to get on the board, but failed to score on nine shots in the period.
Justin Feser ended his point streak at 11 games. Jesse Mychan also ended his point streak at six games.
Lee-Knight made 33 saves in the loss while Brendan Burke made 25 saves in his third shutout win of the season.
Tri-City will have some time off before they play the final game of their home stand as they welcome the Prince George Cougars (15-28-2-4, 36 pts) to the Toyota Center for the first time this season on Wednesday, Jan. 30. Game time is at 7:05 p.m. Tri-City was 3-0-1 last season against Prince George, with each team winning a game in Kennewick. NewsTalk 870 will broadcast the game starting at 6:45 p.m. with the pregame show. WHL Live will stream the game online beginning at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are still available at the Toyota Center Box Office, at any Fred Meyer outlet, at any Ticketmaster location or online at Ticketmaster.com.
Note: 6,100 is the fifth largest crowd all-time for an Americans home game.
Jack in the Box Three Stars:
1. Oliver Bjorkstrand, Portland
2. Brendan Leipsic, Portland
3. Malte Strmwall, Tri-City
Photo credit is John Allen.