KENNEWICK, WA (ISN) – Troy Bourke scored twice and Jesse Forsberg scored the game-winner in overtime, as the visiting Prince George Cougars (23-45-0-2, 48 pts) came-from-behind to defeat the Tri-City Americans (49-17-2-2, 102 pts) 5-4 in front of 4,019 fans inside the Toyota Center.
Fighting for their playoff lives, the Cougars gave the Americans all they could handle on Tuesday night. And, unlike Sunday, this time it was Prince George that rallied for the dramatic win.
With the win, the Cougars not only avoided a season sweep by Tri-City, they side-stepped elimination from the post-season race, as just 4 points separate 7th from 10th place in the conference. Meanwhile, despite the loss, the Americans picked up a valuable overtime point, allowing them to maintain the inside track for the top spot out West with only 2 games left to play.
In the exact opposite of Sunday’s win, it was the Americans that fell behind early only to storm back to take a 3-1 lead.
Just over 3 minutes into the contest, Caleb Belter dug the puck out of the corner before feeding Spencer Asuchak in the slot. Asuchak then slipped a shot past Ty Rimmer for his 16th goal of the season and a 1-0 Cougar lead.
But, aided by two power plays, the Americans scored three times over the next 12 minutes, to take their first lead of the game. First, just over a minute after Asuchak opened the scoring, and on the man-advantage, Adam Hughesman buried a backdoor pass from Justin Feser to knot the game at 1. Then, another minute later, and 23 seconds into their second consecutive power play, Feser left the puck in the corner, where Brendan Shinnimin picked it up and then beat Drew Owsley over his glove for the 2-1 lead. Finally, with less than 3 minutes remaining in the 1st period, Malte Strömwall came streaming into the offensive zone during a line change and grabbed a pass from Hughesman. Then, from the right circle, Strömwall fired a bolt past Owsley for his 11th goal of the season and a two-goal cushion for the Americans.
However, with a minute left in the 1st, Bourke sent the Cougars to the locker room on a positive note. From the right point, Bourke used a Ricard Blidstrand rebound to notch his 17th goal of the season and cut the Cougars’ deficit in half at 3-2 after the first 20 minutes.
Prince George then carried that momentum into the 2nd period, where they scored twice, 1:22 apart, to regain the lead. Just past the midway point of the period, and deep in the Tri-City zone, Drydn Dow’s pass went behind Patrick Holland and into the slot, where Linden Springer pounced on the loose puck. Springer then shelved his 3rd goal of the season over Rimmer’s blocker, tying the game at 3. A minute and a half later, Bourke connected again, recording his team-leading 18th goal of the season to make it a 4-3 Cougar lead.
Early into the 3rd period, though, the Americans pulled even again off the stick of Hughesman. Set-up by Zachary Yuen, Hughesman fired an initial shot on Owsley from the right circle. Owsley made the save, but Hughesman’s second effort took advantage of the misplaced goaltender, recording his 48th goal of the season and tying the game at 4. The Americans went on to out-chance the Cougars 13 to 4 in the final period of regulation, but could not find the equalizer, forcing the game into overtime.
Only a minute into the extra session, though, Alex Forsberg fed brother Jesse in the left circle, who registered his 5th goal of the season to set off the Cougars’ celebration.
Rimmer, who had his four game winning streak snapped, finished the night with 19 saves. Meanwhile, by stopping 31 of 35, Owsley notched career win #98 against the team he earned 76 of them for. Tri-City finished the night 2-for-5 on the power play, while the Cougars went 0-of-2 on the man-advantage.
The Americans will now get two days to prepare for the final weekend of the regular season, as they maintain their pursuit of a fourth division title in five years. Before a season-ending showdown with the rival Chiefs, Tri-City must first face-off against the surging Everett Silvertips (21-38-2-8) on Friday, March 16 at Toyota Center. Game time is 7:05 p.m. Everett comes in having won 5 of their last 8, with all 3 of their losses coming by just one goal. Meanwhile, the Americans will be looking to win their 50th game of the season, as the 2011-12 squad tries to become just the second team in the franchise’s history to reach the mark. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, including online at ticketmaster.com, the Toyota Center box office, or all Fred Meyer outlets. The game will also be broadcast live on NewsTalk 870 AM, starting with the Sterling Savings Bank Warm-up Show at 6:45 p.m.
Applebee’s 3 Stars:
1, Troy Bourke, Prince George
2, Adam Hughesman, Tri-City
3, Spencer Asuchak, Prince George