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Matthew Thiessen focused in on the puck during his 31 save shutout performance in the Pistons' Game 5 win over the Winnipeg Blues in the MJHL Semi-final. (Photo courtesy: Adi Loewen)

Thiessen’s sparkling performance leads Pistons to Game 5 win

Matthew Thiessen recorded his 3rd shutout of the playoffs, making 31 saves in goal to lead the Steinbach Pistons past the Winnipeg Blues 3-0 Saturday night at the TG Smith Centre.

The Pistons now are one win away from taking the best-of-7 semi-final from the Blues. Jeremy Link got the start for Winnipeg, and he turned in another solid performance stopping 37 of 40 Steinbach shots.

Thiessen was the story of Game 5 for Steinbach, turning away the Blues with highlight reel save after highlight reel save. “Huge win for us today, our team was blocking shots and being physical,” the Altona native said after the game. “We were grinding them down all night, and gave a full 60 minutes today.”

Unlike the first 4 games of the series, the pace was high right out of the gate with both sides trying to take control early. Thiessen and Link matched each other save-for-save in the first 20 minutes, with the Pistons outshooting the Blues 18-10.

The Pistons got on the board 4:23 into the second period, as Winnipeg defenceman Ryan Mutch fell down guarding Easton Bennett in the corner. Bennett walked out of the corner towards the goal and roofed it over Link for his first career MJHL playoff goal. New linemates Braden Purtill and Brady Tatro picked up the helpers on the play.

With the game starting to swing towards Winnipeg shortly after the Bennett marker, Purtill and Declan Graham took 2 minor penalties within six seconds of each other. The Blues went on a long 5-on-3 PP with a chance to equalize, or even to take the lead. But in the turning point in the game, Thiessen and the Pistons penalty killers stood tall and did not allow a goal during that span.

“That was a big one for us, and we drew some momentum after that,” Thiessen said. “That kill definitely gave us momentum to finish out the period.” The game was 1-0 after 40 minutes of play.

The Pistons pushed on the gas pedal in the third, grabbing quality chances in tight that didn’t get past Link. With 8:04 gone in the third, Drew Worrad won a faceoff right back to Mark Taraschuk, who fired the puck from the left point which went past a screened Link to make it 2-0 for Steinbach.

Then for good measure, Brady Tatro feathered a beautiful pass up the middle of the ice to the Pistons captain, who outmuscled a Blues defender and tucked it over the blocker of Link to seal the deal for the Pistons. It’s the 4th of the playoffs for Purtill, with Tatro and Mark Wilson picking up assists with 5:33 to go.

Thiessen took it the rest of the way for the Pistons, as the horn sounded for the 3-0 final. But his mind was on tomorrow night’s game in Winnipeg, a place where the Blues are undefeated at home just like Steinbach.

“We’ll enjoy this one for a little, but we have to get ready for tomorrow right away,” he assessed. “Tomorrow we have to go in (their building) and grind like we did today. Make sure we’re blocking shots and clearing out the puck in front of our net.”

SPECIAL TEAMS

Both teams did not score on the power play; Steinbach went 0 for 2, but their huge 5-on-3 kill was instrumental in the Blues going 0 for 4.

UP NEXT: The Pistons look to close out the series tomorrow night, as Game 6 is at the BellMTS Iceplex with a 6:30 pm puck drop.