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One Goal the Difference Again

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KENNEWICK, WA - Momentum can be a tricky thing.  It can give you hope, it can break you down and, on Saturday, the Tri-City Americans got to experience both.


After battling to a 0-0 tie through the first two periods, the Spokane Chiefs (38-20-3-1, 80 pts) got two goals in the first three minutes of the third period, then held off the Tri-City Americans (41-17-1-2, 85 pts) 2-1 in front of 5,783 fans at the Toyota Center.  With the win, the Chiefs have now won four straight against the Americans.  It is the first time either club has won four consecutive games vs. the other since Tri-City rolled off five straight wins from Nov. thru Jan. of the 2005-06 season.  Meanwhile, Tri-City dropped back-to-back home games for just the second time this season.  Coincidentally, the previous time came back on Nov. 27 and 28, which was the last time they played Everett and Spokane on back-to-back nights.


The first half of the season, the Americans rocketed to one of the best starts in the franchise's history and appeared unbeatable.  Meanwhile, the Chiefs were sputtering offensively and looked out of sorts.  But, since the start of the New Year, the Americans have been playing .500 hockey while Spokane has rolled off 17 wins in their last 25 games.  On Saturday, the Chiefs were looking to extend their six-game winning streak and keep momentum in their favor, while Tri-City looked to swing it back their way.


With big hit after big hit, the night started physically for Tri-City.  The end result saw just 10 combined shots in the period, as the game was scoreless after one period.  Then, things opened up in the second period, as Tri-City appeared to take control.  However, the shift in the game's momentum took center stage towards the end of the period.


With less than three minutes remaining in the period, Tri-City went on the power play after Brady Brassart was called for elbowing.  Then, 51 minutes into the power play, Spokane lost their leading defender when Jared Cowen was sent to the penalty box for slashing.  With over a minute to work with on a 5-on-3 power play, Tri-City came close, but could not find the back of the net.  Eventually, the period would end with the game still scoreless.


But, both Spokane players sang their redemption songs to start the third period.  First, Brassart broke the tie just 1:43 into the period.  During a line change, Cowen jumped off the bench and hustled to the half wall to pick up the puck.  Alexander Pechurskiy made the initial save on Cowen's shot from the point but, the Tri-City defense failed to clear the rebound.  Brassart took a couple swings at the puck before finally getting it past Pechurskiy, netting his 8th goal of the season.  Then, just over a minute later, Blake Gal was able to get around Jarrett Toll, then swept a backhander past Pechurskiy as he flew across the crease.  And, just like that, the momentum was in the hands of the Chiefs along with a 2-0 lead.


Tri-City, though, continued to fire away at Reid, outshooting the Chiefs 16 to 6 in the final period.  Finally, while on the power play with 1:38 remaining in the game, Brett Plouffe's shot from the mid-point glance off a body in front of Reid and got past the netminder to put the Americans on the board.  Fourteen seconds after Plouffe's goal, Pechurskiy was pulled for the extra attacker in an effort to tie the game.  But, in the end, it was too much for the Americans to overcome.


Reid collected 32 saves on 33 shots in route to his sixth straight win.  Meanwhile, Pechurskiy stopped 22 of the 24 shots he faced in the tough luck loss.  Tri-City finished the night 1-for-6 on the power play and was a perfect 1-for-1 on the penalty kill