After the game, an irate Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel tore into his team for what he felt was a lackluster performance.
Failure to match Alaska's intensity was the main reason Mougenel said Las Vegas lost Game 1 of the ECHL Western Conference finals 2-1 on Thursday night at Orleans Arena.
"I thought I was the most emotional, which is disappointing," he said. "I just don't understand how you don't bring your best to Game 1 of the conference finals.
"But I promise we will be a better team (tonight)."
The Wranglers will host the top-seeded Aces again at 7:05 p.m. today in Game 2 - a contest that could prove crucial in a rare 2-4-1 series format that was brought on by arena availability issues.
A loss tonight would leave Las Vegas needing to win three of four games at Alaska to force a Game 7 at home.
"(Tonight's game) is huge," Wranglers forward Scott Campbell said. "We don't want to go down 2-0 and head up to Alaska for four games. It's not an easy place to play on the big sheet.
"We've got to respond now and bounce back with a huge effort."
Ryan Cruthers scored both goals for the Aces, netting the game winner on a deflection with 4:06 left. Defenseman Tyson Marsh set up the score, grabbing the puck out of the air with his glove at the high slot, then quickly dropping it on the ice and firing it on net.
Campbell tied it 1-1 for Las Vegas with 2:31 left in the second period. Adam Miller and Ryan Weston assisted, with Miller dropping a pass in the slot for Campbell, who buried it for his team-leading fifth playoff goal.
Weston helped screen Aces goalie Gerald Coleman (25 saves), skating backwards toward the net in the slot.
"Fortunately it came off that crowd right back to me and I was able to put it in," Campbell said.
Cruthers put Alaska up 1-0 at 9:07 of the second period, when he rifled home a power-play goal from the left point that caromed into the net off the crossbar.
Chad Anderson and Kane Lafranchise assisted on the play, which was set up by a tripping penalty on Ash Goldie. The Aces went 1-for-4 with a man advantage.
The Wranglers outshot Alaska 20-15 over the final two periods after getting outshot 17-6 in a scoreless first.
Joe Fallon stopped 30 of 32 shots for Las Vegas.
"We were absolutely brutal for two and a half periods," Mougenel said. "The only reason it was even remotely close was because of Joe Fallon."
The Aces squandered several strong scoring bids in the first, when right wing Zach Harrison whiffed at a shot on an open net.
"I don't know if we were unprepared," Campbell said. "You can go through all the excuses in the book. But that's on us. We've got to be better, that's all there is to it. Joe Joe gave us a chance to win."
■ NOTE - Defenseman Jamie Fritsch returned to the Wranglers from Houston of the American Hockey League.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.