Silvertips win a playoff series against the Thunderbirds for the first time.
EVERETT — One big jinx down, one more up next for the Everett Silvertips.
Everett defeated the Seattle Thunderbirds in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history Saturday night with a dominating 4-0 victory that gives Everett the first-round Western Hockey League series four games to one.
Seattle, the defending league champions, had beaten Everett in all three series between the two franchises until Saturday’s win, punctuated by Carter Hart’s 36-save shutout.
Everett, which has made it to the playoffs all 15 seasons of its existence, has been knocked out of the playoffs in the second round in each of the last three seasons, twice by Seattle and once by Portland. The Silvertips will play either Portland or Spokane in the second round. Portland leads that series three games to two after a 5-4 overtime win.
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By virtue of winning the Western Conference regular-season title, the Silvertips will have the home-ice advantage against either team in the second round.
Hart, the Silvertips’ all-time leader in shutouts in the regular season with 26, had his third in the playoffs.
“To get this win at home against the T-birds is huge,” Hart said. “The last two years haven’t gone in our favor, and this year it was our turn. Now we need to get out of the second round.”
Seattle played hard but couldn’t match Everett’s depth and was outshot in all five games of the series.
“I think we’ve shown all year that we are a team that competes very hard and doesn’t quit, and that was the case in the series,” Seattle coach Matt O’Dette said. “Our guys battled hard. It’s not the result we wanted, but our guys can hold their heads up high.”
The Silvertips fired 45 shots at Liam Hughes, who valiantly kept Seattle within shouting distance for most of the game.
“He’s the best-kept secret in the league,” O’Dette said. “He’s emerged as one of the best goalies in the league, and it’s nice to see him put that on display.”
Riley Sutter put Everett on top in the first period when he scored on a bad-angle shot that deflected off Hughes and into the net.
Ondrej Vala, a free-agent defenseman who signed with the Dallas Stars and was acquired from Kamloops in January, scored his first goal in an Everett uniform to put the Silvertips up 2-0.
Vala came over in a trade that also netted Garrett Pilon, who had the first assist on the goal.
Patrick Bajkov, who led Everett in scoring in the regular season with 33 goals and 100 points, all but wrapped up the series with a power-play goal at 16:10 of the second period.
It was Bajkov’s third goal of the playoffs, and with Hart a rock at the other end of the ice it ended Seattle’s streak of two long playoff runs in a row. Two seasons ago, Seattle won the Western Conference title before losing in the championship series to Brandon, and last season Seattle beat Regina to win the league crown.
Connor Dewar, who scored the key goal in Game 4 on a penalty shot, scored into an empty net to put Everett up 4-0 with 3:31 left, and the only drama left was whether Hart would get the shutout.
He did, with several strong saves near the end of the game.
“Anytime you get a shutout it is always fun,” Hart said. “Now we have to prepare for whoever we have next.”