Friday, February 5, 2010

Wranglers down Idaho, 5-4, in shootout

By Anthony Fenech

Friday, Feb. 5, 2010| 12:25 a.m.

This was the kind of homecoming the Las Vegas Wranglers had in mind.

After a poorly played road trip, the Wranglers returned home and staged a dramatic third-period comeback against the Idaho Steelheads, defeating them, 5-4 in a shootout Thursday at the Orleans Arena.

Ned Lukacevic's wrist shot past Idaho goaltender Ronald Bachman's short side in the fifth round of the shootout gave the Las Vegas the victory in front of 3,651 frenzied fans.

"I waited, waited and waited, faked him a little bit to get that side open, and luckily it opened up and we won," Lukacevic said.

"It was kind of a (Pavel) Datsyuk/(Ryan) Getzlaf move that I've been practicing for a while and it worked."

Down four goals heading into the third period, Las Vegas wasted no time igniting their comeback, as forward Andrew Orpik scored just 29 seconds on a tic-tac-toe goal from Lukacevic and defenseman Chris Frank.

Adam Miller scored just less than ten minutes later, on a highlight-reel, breakaway goal that saw him slipping to the right of Idaho goalie Richard Bachman, but managing to keep his balance and slide the puck past Bachman's left pad.

Lukacevic then drew the Wranglers within one at the 13:44 mark, pushing home a puck that caromed around in a crowd just in front of the net.

With 2:19 remaining in the third period, the Wranglers were awarded a two-man advantage. Mired in an 0-for-17 power-play slump, things didn't necessarily look good for Las Vegas.

However, Orpik blasted a low one-timer just inside the left circle off a feed from Alex Bourret and beat Bachman for the equalizer.

"I got a nice feed from Alex and put it home," Orpik said. "Going into the overtime, we weren't satisfied with one point and we battled hard for those two."

The Wranglers now have scored points in 11 straight games at home, where they haven't lost in regulation since Nov. 13.

"Coach told us to play Wranglers hockey for one period and see what happens," Lukacevic said of the second intermission. "And he was right, we did see what happened."

Mougenel said he was brutally honest with the team at the intermission.

"I was honest with them and sometimes honesty hurts," he said. "I just wanted them to know how much I care about them and that they should care the same way about each other."

In the defeat, Idaho center Tyler Spurgeon once again had the Wranglers' number, netting a natural hat trick with three consecutive goals in the second period.

Spurgeon scored his first goal of the game on the power play at the 7:29 mark of the second period. He followed that up with another power-play tally exactly three minutes later and completed the feat with 46 seconds left in the period as he poked a rebound past Wranglers goaltender Michael Ouzas' left pad.

The hat trick is Spurgeon's second in as many games against the Wranglers. He scored three goals the last time the two teams met in Boise, Idaho, on Jan. 24 and has 12 goals on the season.

Mark McCutcheon had three points for the Steelheads, including the game-opening goal at the 14:40 mark of the first period, assisted by Spurgeon and Mark Derlago.

On the man-advantage after an Ouzas interference penalty, Spurgeon walked in from the left of Ouzas and fed the puck in front to McCutcheon, who flipped one past the goaltender's glove into the top shelf.

Ouzas stopped 30 of 34 shots including three out of four shootout attempts for the victory.

"This just shows you how we can play if we get going," Ouzas said. "That's a great team over there and if we don't work as hard as them, we're not going to win. In the third, we outworked them and we were able to get the win."

The Wranglers (19-22-3-1) win marks only the second time Idaho has lost this season when scoring more than three goals. Both of those losses have come to the Wranglers.

"This was obviously a big win for our team," head coach Ryan Mougenel said. "But there were deficiencies in our game and we're a team that needs to shore those up."

Three stars: 1. Andrew Orpik (two goals); 2. Idaho's Tyler Spurgeon (hat trick, assist); 3. Ned Lukacevic (goal, two assists)

Heavy hitter(s): Idaho's Steve Olesky and Wranglers defenseman John Schwarz, for going toe-to-toe at center ice five minutes into the second period. After a post-whistle scrum, the two got down to business right after the ensuing faceoff and traded blows until both fell to the ice.

Housewarming: Right-winger Alex Bourret made his home debut Thursday. Bourret, who leads the team with eight points against Idaho, recorded an assist in the win.

Double trouble: Steelheads Evan Barlow and Derlago entered the game fresh off winning a pair of ECHL accolades for the month of January. With 21 points in nine games (11 goals, 10 assists), Barlow was named the league's Rookie of the Month. Derlago tallied 24 points (8 goals, 16 assists) and was named the league's Player of the Month.

Up next: The Wranglers host Idaho for two more games Friday and Saturday at the Orleans Arena.

Final word: "This could be a playoff matchup," Lukacevic said. "So we want to show them we're for real."

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