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October 21, 2014

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With OT victory, Wranglers take 2-0 playoff series lead over Idaho

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STEPHEN SYLVANIE / SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Scott Campbell is mobbed by his Las Vegas teammates after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against the Idaho Steelheads on Tuesday night.

Wranglers Idaho Playoffs Game 2

Chad Nehring (23) loses an edge and sails into Wranglers goaltender Mitch O'Keefe during the third period of play on Tuesday night. Launch slideshow »

After Idaho forced overtime on a goal with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, Wranglers center Scott Campbell scored on the team’s first shot in overtime to defeat the Steelheads 3-2 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

With the victory, Las Vegas gained a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series and ensured that the Wranglers will play another home playoff game at the Orleans Arena in the 2-3-2 series format.

“It was a huge win,” Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “You need those two wins at home. I thought the last 10 minutes Idaho dictated the play, which was a good lesson for us.

“I didn’t think it was one of our better playoff games, but I’m real happy with how the guys responded after giving up a tough one on the game-tying goal.”

After a scoreless first period, Wranglers left wing Josh Lunden scored the opening goal of the game on a slap shot from center ice that made it through the legs of Steelheads goaltender Jerry Kuhn at the 4:09 mark of the second period.

“I thought Lunden was awesome,” Mougenel said. “I can’t say enough about what Josh Lunden means to the hockey club. The one thing about this team is that everyone plays an integral part and they find a way to win for each other.”

The Steelheads tied the game at a goal apiece later in the second period on a mad scramble in front of the Wranglers’ cage in which Idaho’s Cody Purves was able to get his stick on the puck and jam it by Mitch O’Keefe for the equalizer.

Las Vegas regained the lead on a Peter MacArthur blast from the slot with 5:42 remaining in the second period. Lunden and center Ash Goldie were credited with the assists on the go-ahead score.

Las Vegas held the lead until 1:52 left in regulation when Idaho forward Joe Pereira scored on a goal near the Wranglers’ net. Pereira secured a pass from Jacob Cepis and lifted the puck past O’Keefe to send the game into overtime.

On the Wranglers first scoring opportunity in overtime, Campbell received a Chris Francis centering pass from near the boards and went top shelf to beat Kuhn for the game-winner.

“Paukovich had a good dump off the boards and I read the rim,” Francis said. “I saw Campbell out of the corner of my eye and I decided to throw it there. I got a fortunate bounce and it went off his stick and into the back of the net.”

Stars of the game: 1. Josh Lunden (1 goal, 1 assist); 2. Scott Campbell (game-winning goal); 3. Ash Goldie (2 assists).

O’Keefe remains unbeaten in playoffs: With the overtime victory, O’Keefe improved to a perfect 5-0 in the postseason and has yet to surrender more than two goals in any playoff game. O’Keefe saved 28 of the 30 shots he faced Tuesday night.

Bad blood brewing: As Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals progressed, tensions began to run high between the two squads. Late in the second period, several skirmishes broke out resulting in multiple roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for each team.

Next up: The Wranglers return to the ice on Thursday as they travel to Boise to face the Steelheads in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series at CenturyLink Arena with the puck scheduled to drop at 6:10 p.m.

Final word: “It was nice to end the game early in overtime,” Francis said. “Everyone is excited. That was a huge win to carry into Idaho going up two games to zero. The boys are happy, but then again we know he have a lot of work to do.”

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