Timely goals and hot goaltending have made the Edmonton Oil Kings nearly impossible to come back on in the Western Hockey League playoffs.
Now the Moose Jaw Warriors will need a comeback for the ages if they want to advance to the WHL final.
The Oil Kings, who have yet to trail in the Eastern Conference final, took a 3-0 series stranglehold with a 3-2 win Tuesday at a thunderous Mosaic Place.
“It’s frustrating because we have a great group of guys in there with great character,” said Warriors defenceman Dylan McIlrath. “I know after the first game of the series we knew we needed better and we responded in the second game, but didn’t get the result. It was kind of the same tonight.”
The Oil Kings took a 2-1 lead into the third period and Michael St. Croix scored on a lethal backhand 5:48 into the frame.
The Oil Kings are now 47-1-1-1 this season when having a lead after two periods.
“Earlier on in the season and last year we struggled playing with the lead and struggled closing games out,” said Oil Kings captain Mark Pysyk. “Obviously I think we’ve learned from that. We pride ourselves on our defensive game in our defensive zone.
“When they throw everything at us we have speed to go the other way.”
The Warriors weren’t going to go quietly. Some excellent work by McIlrath on the forecheck led to James Henry crashing the net to beat Laurent Brossoit and cut the lead to one with 4:27 left.
The Warriors pushed for the equalizer, but couldn’t solve Brossoit.
“Brossoit played unbelievable for us. We expect him to make the first save and he’s done a heck of a job of that. Once he does that, we try to get there and clear the rebounds out and be strong in front of the net,” said Pysyk.
The Oil Kings only managed five shots in the second period, but they were the ones who were able to find the back of the net. St. Croix made a beautiful cross-crease pass to Curtis Lazar who banged his seventh goal of the playoffs past Warriors goalie Luke Siemens.
The Oil Kings opened the scoring on a three-on-two rush when Pysyk found a trailing T.J. Foster who wired a shot past Siemens.
The Warriors finally found an equalizer when Brayden Point scored on the power play late in the first period. Morgan Rielly made a great pass to Henry who made a slick backhand pass to Point at the side of the net. Brossoit robbed Point with his pad, but could only get a piece of the rebound.