EVERETT — Taran Kozun was angry at himself, but he took it out on the Everett Silvertips.
Kozun’s turnover in front of his own net helped Everett grab an early lead, but the Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender came back to make 26 saves to lift the Thunderbirds to a 3-1 win Sunday afternoon. The victory gives Seattle a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round Western Hockey League playoff series.
“I felt like I owed the team, that I had to make some big saves after that,” Kozun said after Everett’s Brayden Low collected the puck in front of the Seattle net and fed it to Carson Stadnyk to give the Silvertips a 1-0 lead 3:51 into the opening period.
“In the playoffs, you have to have a short memory,” Kozun said. “If you let one in, you have to move on. It wasn’t the end of the world, it didn’t cost us the game.”
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Seattle pulled even on a power-play goal by Roberts Lipsbergs at 5:01 of the second period and Brandon Troock scored what turned out to be the game-winner at 2:58 of the third period. Russell Maxwell added an insurance goal at 8:45 of the third and Kozun made sure it stood up.
Kozun has made 64 saves on 66 shots in Seattle’s two wins and helped the T-birds hold Everett to only a single goal on 11 power-play opportunities.
“The guys in front of me are blocking a lot of shots and making those 200-foot clears,” Kozun said. “Special teams has really been a key for us.”
Kozun was also fortunate. The Silvertips had three shots go off the goal posts and another ring off the cross bar.
“The goal posts are always a goaltender’s best friend,” Kozun said. “I felt like I was in position and am playing better as the series goes on.”
Shea Theodore had a pair of assists for the Thunderbirds, but all he could talk about was Kozun’s key saves.
“When he plays hot every night, it’s really hard to lose those games,” Theodore said. “He’s getting those key timely saves. I don’t even know how he made that one, just diving across the crease. It was unbelievable.”
Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said some of Kozun’s spectacular saves fire up the entire team.
“He had a couple of really key saves when the game was 1-1 that gave us a chance to get the lead,” Konowalchuk said. “They were big saves and got our entire bench going.”
Game 3 will be played in Kent on Tuesday night and Konowalchuk doesn’t expect things to get any easier.
“Everett is a darn good hockey team and you have to earn every inch of ice and battle and battle,” Konowalchuk said. “It’s nice to get a little bit of momentum here, but we know we’re going to get a really desperate hockey team in Game 3.”