KENT — The Seattle Thunderbirds opened the Western Hockey League playoffs by cooling off the WHL’s hottest team.
A pair of power-play goals in the first period and an extended stretch of penalty-killing in the second lifted the T-Birds to a 2-1 win over the Everett Silvertips on Saturday night in Game 1 of a Western Conference first-round series in front of 4,560 at the ShoWare Center.
Seattle goalie Taran Kozun made 38 saves, swatting away Everett’s final shot with five seconds to play after the Silvertips played the final minute with an extra attacker. The Tips outshot Seattle 39-22.
The teams meet again on Sunday at Comcast Arena in Everett at 4:05 p.m. for game two of the best-of-seven series.
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Seattle led 2-0 less than 12 minutes into the game. Thunderbirds coach Steve Konowalchuk said the fast start was a big boost.
“Anytime you can get off to a lead like that and capitalize on the power plays against a team that starts really well, the guys did a good job in the first,” he said.
Everett, which had won the last three regular-season meetings between the teams, entered the playoffs with 11 wins and just two shootout losses in its previous 13 games. The Tips had won nine of their past 10; Seattle was 4-6 over that span.
Russell Maxwell, playing in his fourth WHL season but skating in his first playoff game, scored Seattle’s first goal less than three minutes into the game. Maxwell, a 19-year-old center, was acquired from the last-place Lethbridge Hurricanes in January.
He scored at the 2:27 mark during a power play when Jaimen Yakubowski fired a shot from the right circle that bounced off Everett goalie Austin Lotz. Maxwell put it into the net with a backhand from just outside the crease.
“I was really fortunate in my first shift to get a lucky bounce and get a goal,” Maxwell said. “You work hard during the season, and you really want to make it to the playoffs. It feels good to finally play a game that’s not just another game in the regular season.”
In the 12th minute, Theodore took a pass from Branden Troock and, front center point, ripped a shot past Lotz for a 2-0 lead.
Everett played nearly the first six minutes of the second period on power plays, scoring at the 2:43 mark with a two-man advantage when Patrick Bajkov, off a pass from Josh Winquist, powered home a drive from the left circle.