Graham Millar scores the game-winner, taking advantage of a lucky bounce

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EVERETT — The Seattle Thunderbirds might have deserved better, but the bottom line is that the Everett Silvertips padded their lead in the U.S. Division of the Western Hockey League with a 2-1 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 8,352 Saturday night.

Graham Millar decided the outcome in the third period when he scored his 12th goal of the season after a fortunate bounce put him in front of the net with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

The Silvertips were able to survive a five-minute power play in the third period thanks mainly to stellar goaltender Carter Hart.

Hart made 34 saves to pick up his 28th victory of the season and fourth, against only one overtime defeat, against Seattle this season.

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“I thought most of our guys played a good, smart hockey game, but they got a good bounce at the end and scored on it,” Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “We have to take the positives out of this game and move on. We played a hard, consistent game and are frustrated we didn’t get a win.”

The victory puts Everett at 29-15-2-2 and seven points better than Seattle at 26-19-3-0.

Hart, as is his custom, was quick to credit his defense and the preparation they put in to get ready for Seattle.

“We know they are a hard-hitting team and we needed to amp up our style and our game,” Hart said. “That’s what we did tonight.”

Hart, who says he doesn’t pay attention to statistics, did not know how many saves he had, but did know he had done his job on a busy night.

“I felt sharp, but the guys really played well in front of me and that makes my job easier,” Hart said. “We only gave up like five shots on that last power play and that really was the difference.”

Konowalchuk didn’t think his players were trying to make the perfect shot to beat Hart, but they did miss the net more than they usually do.

“This was definitely (Hart’s) best game against us,” Konowalchuk said. “We had a lot of shots that just missed and a lot of scoring chances that he stopped. He did his job and gave them a chance to win and that’s what they did.”

Seattle was able to kill off six Everett power plays as the T-birds improved on their top-ranked penalty killing unit in the league.

Brandon Ralph stood in the slot and took a pass from Devon Skoleski from the side of the net and one-timed it into the net to give Everett a 1-0 lead.

Seattle tied it on the 23rd goal of the season by Ryan Gropp. The power-play score came on assists from Jerrett Smith and Mathew Barzal.

The second period was scoreless with Seattle carrying much of the play and having the better chances.

Defenseman Jerret Smith, who had an assist on Seattle’s first goal, was pushed into the boards by Remi Laurencelle midway through the third period. Laurencelle drew a five-minute major boarding penalty and a game misconduct and Smith did not return.