Monday, April 12, 2010

Utah tops Wranglers in playoff game, forces Game 5

By Anthony Fenech

Monday, April 12, 2010 | 12:01 a.m.

The Las Vegas Wranglers have been playing important hockey games for several weeks.

In last place with their backs against the wall halfway through the season, the Wranglers have played playoff hockey night-in and night-out just to get to the ECHL Playoffs.

But now, they will be playing for their season.

“We’ve played like this the whole year,” head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “Am I confident? 100 percent.”

Sunday afternoon in Utah, the Wranglers dropped Game 4 of the National Conference quarterfinals to the Grizzlies, 4-2, setting up a series-deciding Game 5 on Tuesday night.

“It’s not a time to panic,” Mougenel said. “It’s a time to believe in each other and believe in how good we can be.”

Two third-period goals by Utah erased a one-goal Las Vegas lead heading into the final frame.

Grizzlies defenseman Brian Kilburg scored at the 6:47 mark of the period to tie the game at two.

Forward Tim Crowder then followed up Kilburg’s goal by netting the game-winner about four minutes later.

“We just tried to hold on maybe a little too much,” Wranglers captain Chris Neiszner said. “We needed to keep going after them. They have a lot of skill and they’re going to score. Unfortunately, it came in the third period.”

Neiszner put the Wranglers ahead early, scoring on the first shift of the game, 13 seconds in, assisted by Greg Collins.

The goal was the center’s third of the series.

But Utah responded after Las Vegas was whistled for a delay of game near the midway point of the period, when Lance Galbraith scored a power-play goal with 10:01 remaining in the period.

“We missed some assignments on the line rush,” Mougenel said. “It’s something we take a certain pride in, it’s something that we can definitely rectify before Tuesday and get back to where we need to be.”

Ryan Weston would give the Wranglers their second lead of the game late in the first period on a goal assisted by Barry Goers. The game remained 2-1 through a scoreless second period.

Wranglers goaltender Jimmy Spratt stopped 21 of 24 shots and Utah goalie Mike Morrison, just a night after filling in for the starting Mikko Koskinen for the second time in the series, stopped 32 of 34 shots for the victory.

“We weren’t collectively on the same page tonight,” Mougenel said. “But we know where we have to be at to be successful, it was a hard fought game and we’re looking forward to the finale.”

The two teams meet in Game 5 on Tuesday evening at the E-Center in West Valley City, Utah.

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