Good start, defense guide Winterhawks to 2-0 series lead
The Portland Winterhawks need two more wins in the next five Western Hockey League championship series games to return to the Memorial Cup.
The Hawks scored quickly again Chase De Leo and Brendan Leipsic in the first 3:14 of the game and beat Edmonton 3-1 in Game 2 Sunday before 10,645 at Moda Center.
Goalie Corbin Boes made 28 saves in improving to 6-0 in the WHL playoffs, helped by the Portland defensemen and forwards in limiting quality Edmonton scoring chances for the second consecutive game.
The Oil Kings played well to stay close in the final 56:46 of the game, but one or two goals scored won't be beating the WHL's highest scoring team very often.
Game 3 will be 6 p.m. PT Tuesday at Edmonton's Rexall Place and Game 4 is there at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
"I'm confident going into Tuesday that we'll have a big game," Edmonton defenseman Griffin Reinhart said.
"We know how close this series is, as far as play on the ice," said Mike Johnston, Portland general manager and coach.
The four-time Western Conference champ Hawks scored 2:50 into Game 1, and De Leo scored at 2:12 of Game 2, followed by Leipsic at 3:14 against goalie Tristan Jarry.
Paul Bittner added his third goal of the series in the second period, before Edmonton broke up Boes' shutout attempt with Henrik Samuelsson's third-period, power-play goal.
Johnston said he liked how the Hawks used their speed game and puck movement "and came at Edmonton" in the first two periods, and backchecked and boxed out Oil Kings from Boes and blocked shots on defense.
"Those rush chances are killed by the blue line, and (D-men) are forcing outside shots," Boes said.
Johnston didn't like the third period, but the Hawks held on.
"We could have managed the puck better," said Leipsic, who returned to the lineup after a one-game suspension.
"We had good push at the end, but we chased the game around," Edmonton coach Derek Laxdal said. "We had offensive zone time, but we weren't willing to shoot the puck to generate opportunities.
"They really capitalized on loose pucks and bounces. We have to play a perfect structured game."
Added star forward Curtis Lazar, who has been neutralized through two games: "You can't play catch-up hockey against a team like Portland. They'll make you pay. ... Their defensemen do a good job of boxing us out. It's up to us to get to the dirty areas."
Laxdal talked about the Oil Kings adding "another level to our game" likely starting with offense. Portland has outscored Edmonton 8-3 in the first two games (and one Oil King goal should have been disallowed because of offsides), outshot the Eastern Conference champs and limited the Oil Kings to 1 of 8 on the power play including holding on a 5-on-3 opportunity in Game 2.