by Wayne Moore

The Kelowna Rockets season is hanging in the balance.

Nic Petan scored three power-play goals as his Portland Winterhawks scored five unanswered goals in a 5-1 thumping of the Kelowna Rockets Wednesday in Portland.

The Winterhawks lead the best-of-seven Western Conference final 3-1 with game five back at Prospera Place Friday night.

The Rockets controlled the opening 20 minutes and opened the scoring when Nick Merkley scored his fourth of the playoffs.

It would be the only shot that would beat Corbin Boes in the Portland net.

"We really did have a good first period. We felt like we played the way we needed to," Rockets assistant coach Dan Lambert said on the post game radio show.

"Unfortunately in the second we started taking penalties and ultimately that's what changed the game. We were better than we were last night (Tuesday) five-on-five - I thought we had opportunities to score goals but once again if you are going to play against Portland and you're in the penalty box eventually they're going to make you pay. Their goalie made some big saves on our power play and they did a good job with their penalty kill."

The Hawks made the Rockets pay scoring three times with the man advantage and once while shorthanded.

Petan's first of the game late in the opening period tied it 1-1.

He made it 2-1 midway through the second on another power-play before Oliver Bjorkstrand scored his sixth of the series shorthanded less than a minute later.

Petan again and Paul Bittner into an empty net late in the third rounded out the scoring.

"When you play an elite team like Portland you need everybody to be really good and right now we have a lot of passengers," said Lambert.

"We have guys that for some reason will show energy for a shift or two and then they'll just disappear right off the face of the earth. I don't understand it - at this time of the year it's hard to watch, it's hard to take."

Lambert says they have to try and figure it out before Friday's fifth and possibly final game in the series.

"We need to put our best foot forward and that's the only way we're going to give ourselves a chance at beating this team."

Portland finished the night 3-8 on the power-play while the Rockets went 0-5 and gave up the shorthanded goal.

Should the Rockets prevail Friday a sixth game would be played back in Portland Sunday afternoon.