STEPHEN SYLVANIE / SPECIAL TO THE SUN
Friday, Feb. 17, 2012 | 11:48 p.m.
The Utah Grizzlies scored three unanswered goals to rally back from a 3-1 deficit and defeat the Wranglers 4-3 Friday night at the Orleans Arena in the first of a three-game series between the teams.
“We are finding ways to lose games, which is disappointing,” Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “We’ll get through this, but we need to work the right way. I thought we were good for the majority of the game, but we’re finding ways to lose. We need to bear down.”
Utah scored the opening goal of the game on its first shot attempt of the first period on an unassisted slap shot from near the blue line by forward Paul McIlveen.
Las Vegas (31-18-1-4) responded with three consecutive goals to take a 3-1 lead with less than seven minutes remaining in the second period.
The Wranglers tied the game less than three minutes after falling behind as Josh Lunden deflected in a Channing Boe wrist shot for his 17th goal of the season.
Las Vegas took a 2-1 lead at the 5:55 mark of the second period as defenseman Barry Goers secured a Michael Busto pass in the slot and fired the puck past Utah goaltender Andrew Engelage.
The Wranglers went up 3-1 with 6:21 left in the second period after Busto won a faceoff and passed it out to center Geoff Paukovich, who hammered it home from the right wing. Las Vegas scored three goals on 14 shots through two periods of play.
Utah began its comeback on a Mitch Wahl breakaway goal with 1:18 left in the second period to trim the Grizzlies deficit to 3-2.
The Grizzlies caught a fortunate break midway through the third period to tie the game at three goals apiece.
Utah slapped a puck off the boards behind the Wranglers net and as goaltender Joe Fallon went to clear the puck, it ricocheted off the glass and slid in front of an open cage. Forward John Armstrong was there to mop up an unassisted power-play goal.
“Bounces don’t go your way all the time, but with our team we've got to play a full 60 minutes,” Busto said. “That’s what we’re working on. We’ll need to play a full 60 minutes come playoff time.”
Utah capped the comeback on Wahl’s second goal of the game with 4:32 left in regulation for its third consecutive goal of the contest.
Stars of the game: 1. Mitch Wahl (2 goals); 2.Barry Goers (1 goals); 3. Michael Busto (2 assists).
Wranglers’ weakness: The Grizzlies have won five of the seven games against Las Vegas this season, including a 3-1 victory over the Wranglers on Wednesday in Utah. With the loss, the Wranglers’ first place lead in the Pacific Division is down to two points over Ontario, who defeated Colorado 4-3 Friday.
AHL call-ups: Forward Eric Lampe and defenseman Jamie Fritsch were called up to the AHL on Thursday. Lampe, who leads the ECHL with 34 goals scored, has been loaned to the Hamilton Bulldogs, while Fritsch got the assignment from the Houston Aeros.
Next up: The Wranglers return to the ice Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. as they host the Grizzlies for the third time in four nights. The two teams conclude their series with Las Vegas’ second midnight game of the year the following night.
Final word: “We worked our tails off and then we decided that we were going to start making penalties,” said Mougenel, who saw his team commit nine infractions. “We made penalties and it cost us. I’m not happy about those penalties.”