Winning is never easy, sometimes it's down right ugly. Busting a losing streak is even harder. So, while giving up a two-goal lead in the third period is not optimal, getting a crucial two points at this stage of the season was critical, thus the shootout win over Vancouver Sunday becomes a thing of beauty and snapped the T-birds three game losing streak.
Seattle was controlling most of the game versus the Giants. It could have been a four or five goal lead in the third if not for the herculean efforts of Vancouver goalie Peyton Lee who ended the night with 43 saves. But a bad penalty and a bad bounce midway through the final period let the Giants back into the game and Seattle lost the momentum. In the end the T-birds prevailed, thanks to some stellar goaltending from Danny Mumaugh in the shootout as he denied Vancouver's last four shooters, twice with defeat staring him right in the face. Gut check goaltending by Mumaugh there gets the Thunderbirds the extra point and a well earned win.
The victory ended a very inconsistent weekend for the T-birds. They played well through two periods Friday in Portland, coming back twice to tie the game, including a two-goal comeback in the second period. But after falling behind by a goal at the end of the second, they had no response in the third.
It was similar Saturday at home against Everett. A tepid first period, a sloppy second and by the time they finally got going in the third it was too little too late. It didn't help that captain and team leader Justin Hickman missed those two games with an upper body injury. It was good to have him back in the lineup Sunday versus Vancouver, even if not at 100 percent.
Sunday's contest was Seattle's "game-in-hand" on both Spokane and Everett and it snipped two points off their magic number to clinch fourth place in the Western Conference and home ice advantage in the first round. Right now the magic number sits at four. Seattle can eliminate the Chiefs from catching them in the standings with a regulation win at home Tuesday at the ShoWare Center. Spokane can still finish with the same number of points as the T-birds but a win by Seattle Tuesday would mean the best Spokane could do is tie them and the T-birds would own the tie-breakers. The 'Birds have already won the season series and if Seattle wins Tuesday the best Spokane could do is tie them in the win column.
The T-birds need one more win and three points to stay ahead of Everett in the final standings. A win and a Silvertips loss would also do the trick. By winning out, the best Everett could do is finish with 40 wins. One more win would give Seattle 41. If I remember correctly, the first tie breaker is wins, then head-to-head record (Seattle and Everett split their season series). By winning out, Everett would finish with 89 points. The Thunderbirds currently have 86. So, one more win and another point by either SO or OT loss would sew up home ice in the first round for the T-birds.
The easy part is figuring out the scenario. The hard part will be accomplishing those goals. Seattle's final four games won't be easy. They have two at home and two on the road. They'll play those four games over six days. All four remaining games are against U.S. Division opponents including two against Portland. The final game of the season could be against a Tri-City team trying to sew up a playoff spot.
Winning is never easy.