STEPHEN SYLVANIE / SPECIAL TO THE SUN
Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 | 10:40 p.m.
The Las Vegas Wranglers hosted the Bakersfield Condors on Tuesday night at the Orleans Arena on the flip side of a home-at-home series after losing in Bakersfield 3-1 on Saturday night.
The Wranglers, the lowest-scoring team in the ECHL's Western Conference, managed to score five goals against the Condors, yet lost 6-5 as Bakersfield got two clutch goals from forward Chris Collins to deny Las Vegas just its 13th victory of the season.
Chad Nehring got the Las Vegas fans into the game just 26 seconds into the first period after chipping in his 11th goal of the year off a pretty one-time pass from linemate John Armstrong to give the Wranglers the early lead.
Bakersfield forward Spencer Bennett tied the game later in the first, to set the tone of a back-and-forth scoring battle throughout the first period. Wranglers newcomer Shawn Skelley sniped a corner of the net over the shoulder of Bakersfield goaltender Laurent Brossoit midway through the first, though Michael Neal would score for the Condors to knot the game 2-2 with three minutes to go in the period. Wranglers forward Geoff Paukovich would cap a wild first period of scoring with his fifth goal of the year to give the Wranglers a 3-2 edge going into the second period.
In the second period, the Wranglers would get their second short-handed goal in as many games, this time from Matt Tassone, who broke away during a Condor power play to score on a slap shot from the faceoff circle to give the Wranglers a 4-2 advantage.
The Condors would score the next two goals of the second period, one from Erik Burgdoerfer to cut the Vegas lead to just one, then left wing Chris Collins would net first of his two goals of the night, to tie the game at 4-4 with 5:21 left in the second period.
The teams took a closely contested match deep into the third until Bakersfield's Chase Schaeber netted his ninth goal of the year as the final seconds ticked off a Condors power play, giving Bakersfield the 5-4 lead.
With his team down by a score, coach Mike Madill pulled Wranglers goaltender Mitch O'Keefe in favor of an extra attacker with a faceoff near the Bakersfield net. Condors forward Chris Collins would whip the puck from deep inside his own zone into the unguarded Wranglers net to give Bakersfield a 6-4 lead with just over a minute left in the game.
Refusing to give up, the Wranglers continued to press in the final minute. Forward Robbie Smith scored with 36 seconds left in the third period to bring Las Vegas back to within a goal, and to give the several hundred waning fans something to cheer about, though Bakersfield would prevail as time expired, 6-5.
Up next for the Wranglers, a pair of home games against the Idaho Steelheads on Friday and Saturday.