Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012 | 12:06 a.m.
Las Vegas forward Josh Lunden scored two power-play goals and goaltender Mitch O’Keefe collected 25 saves as the Wranglers snapped a two-game losing streak Saturday with a 2-1 victory against Utah at the Orleans Arena.
“It’s a huge win. It’s something we needed,” Lunden said. “We haven’t been getting the bounces lately, but things will start to turn our way as long as we stay persistent. Tonight was huge. We needed these two points to continue gaining on Alaska and to stay away from Ontario.”
Lunden scored the opening goal of the game at the 1:49 mark of the first period after Utah’s Kory Falite picked up a slashing penalty 42 seconds into play to give Las Vegas a man advantage.
Lunden picked up his second power-play goal of the game midway through the second period as he secured the puck near the slot and blasted it by Utah goaltender Andrew Engelage for his 19th goal of the season. Adam Miller and Jeff May were credited with assists on the goal.
“It was a broken play,” Miller said. “I gave the puck to Lundy and the goaltender got screened. Lundy shot it and the goaltender didn’t have a chance.”
Utah cut its deficit in half with 3:09 left in regulation when Falite scored on an unassisted backhanded wrist shot from the slot for the Grizzlies' lone goal of the game.
The Grizzlies had a couple good scoring opportunities in the final minutes of play but were unable to cash any of them in for the game-tying goal.
Utah had a shot fire off the left post with 2:25 to play and O’Keefe came up with a key pad save with just seconds remaining to secure the win for the Wranglers.
“The guy’s been a great teammate all year,” Miller said of O’Keefe. “He’s had some injuries. He’s been our No. 1 supporter and fan when he was out. It’s great to get him a win. He played solid for us. It’s great to have a one-two punch like that.”
The Grizzlies outshot the Wranglers 12-4 in the final period but were unable to overcome the two-goal deficit.
Stars of the game: 1. Josh Lunden (2 goals); 2. Mitch O’Keefe (25 saves); 3. Adam Miller (2 assists).
Fallon rests: Goaltender Joe Fallon received a rare night off for the Wranglers. Fallon leads the ECHL in minutes (2,489), games played (43) and wins (26). O’Keefe recorded his fourth win of the season in Fallon’s place.
Penalty killers: The Wranglers killed all four of the Grizzlies' power play chances, including a stretch late in the second period when Utah had a 5-on-3 advantage for almost two minutes.
Next up: The Wranglers and Grizzlies finish the three-game series Sunday night during the Wranglers' Midnight Circus featuring contortionists, magicians, stilt walkers and more. The puck is scheduled to drop at 11:59 p.m. for the second time this season at the Orleans Arena.
Final word: “That says a lot about your team when you kill a 5-on-3 for a solid two minutes,” Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “Guys were in lanes blocking shots. That’s not an easy thing to do. The penalty kill was on tonight. The best penalty kill is usually your goalie and Mitch was awesome.”
The Orleans Arena, a Boyd Gaming facility located just west of the Las Vegas Strip, is one of the nation’s leading mid-sized arenas, and was recently ranked No. 1 in the United States and No. 5 internationally among venues of similar size by Venues Today Magazine.
The Arena hosts more than 200 events each year, including concerts by top names like Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Van Halen, Brooks & Dunn, Black Eyed Peas, Akon and Rihanna; family favorites like The Harlem Globetrotters and Circus Spectacular; and a wide variety of sporting events, including NCAA basketball tournaments, the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference Basketball Championships, mixed martial arts with Superior Cage Combat, and major motorsports events.
The arena serves as home to the Las Vegas Wranglers professional ECHL hockey team, the Las Vegas Legends professional indoor soccer team, and the Lingerie Football League’s Las Vegas Sin. Stay connected to the Orleans Arena on Facebook (www.facebook.com/orleansarena) and on Twitter (@orleansarena).