Friday, January 8, 2010

Wranglers winning streak ends with 3-2 loss to Ontario

By Anthony Fenech

Friday, Jan. 8, 2010 | 11:11 p.m.

The old adage says that nothing good lasts forever. The Las Vegas Wranglers found out the hard way Friday.

Just one win from tying a franchise record of nine in a row at home, the Wranglers allowed two late goals and lost to the Ontario Reign, 3-2, at the Orleans Arena.

"This one falls on me" Wranglers goalie Michael Ouzas said. "I have to be better, plain and simple."

Ouzas allowed the game-tying goal to Ontario defenseman David Walker with just 1:08 remaining in the third period. It came on a wrist shot from just inside the right circle that beat the goaltender high on his glove side.

"It wasn't a good goal, and it cost us the game," he said.

Playing from behind for much of the game, the Reign finalized their comeback on captain Jon Francisco's seeing-eye, game-winning deflection with 35 seconds left in the extra period.

"I didn't see a thing in front of me," Ouzas said of the overtime goal that began as a slap shot from the point off the stick of Andrew Martens and, after Francisco's deflection, trickled into the net.

The victory put a halt to the Wranglers' six-game winning streak, but the one point earned for an overtime loss prolongs their points streak to eight games.

"Did we deserve the victory? No," Mougenel said. "But I thought we played real well, outplayed them for the most part and they just found a way to win.

"I don't like giving teams two points when we have them down, but the guys have played extremely hard. I like how we're playing, and I don't have any complaints."

For the first time in 12 games, Las Vegas failed to score the game's first goal, falling behind on a score by Ontario's Tim Kraus with 8:34 left to play in the first period.

The Wranglers responded with two goals by Ned Lukacevic, both of which were assisted by center Josh Prudden and defenseman Shay Stephenson, and held the lead heading into the third period.

"It's always a heartbreaker when you lose like this," Lukacevic said. "We've been battling hard, though, and you can't win them all."

Barraged with a flurry of Reign shots and scoring chances late in the game, Ouzas' armor finally was chinked as 4,932 Wranglers fans were on their feet trying to will the team to a historic win.

A victory would have given the team nine straight home victories. That would have tied the 2006-07 Wranglers, who accomplished that feat from March 10 to April 7, 2007.

Only two Wranglers remain from that team, captain and center Chris Neiszner and defenseman Jason Krischuk.

"Tonight there was a big crowd, and it was nice to see," Neiszner said. "Obviously winning promotes that."

Lukacevic continued his recent offensive tear, and his two goals pushed him into the team lead with 12. He has scored in four consecutive games and has seven points in that span.

"I feel good," he said. "I give credit to all my teammates. I can't do this without their hard work."

Las Vegas remains one point ahead of Ontario in the ECHL Pacific Division.

"We'll take a win any way we can," Reign head coach Karl Taylor said. "It's very important to get some confidence back in our room."

The victory was the first for the Reign over their division rivals this season.

"I thought we played really well," Taylor said. "We needed a win and we got one."

Three stars: 1. Ned Lukacevic (two goals); 2. Ontario's Jon Francisco (game-winning goal); 3. Josh Prudden.

Alternate ending: On display for the first time this regular season was the Wranglers' third jersey — black with dice graphics lining the front, back and arms of the sweater.

Injury report: Stephenson returned from a lower-body injury that kept him out of action the past two games. He recorded two assists, but admitted to erring during the game's deciding moments. "It was a bad turnover by myself," he said. "I should have just cleared the puck in the first place."

Up next: Ontario on Saturday at the Orleans Arena. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m..

Final word: "We'll be better tomorrow," Mougenel said. "We will keep motoring on."

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