Only a handful of teams in pro sports history have rallied to win a playoff series after trailing 3-0. That’s the daunting challenge facing the Wranglers.
Las Vegas suffered a 5-1 loss to the Alaska Aces on Wednesday to fall into a 3-0 hole in its best-of-7 ECHL Western Conference quarterfinal.
The national anthem had barely ended at Orleans Arena when Peter Sivak beat Travis Fullerton 14 seconds into the game to put the Aces ahead for good.
Sivak, Alaska’s leading scorer, and Nick Mazzolini, the Aces’ captain, combined for three goals— two shorthanded — and three assists.
Alaska, which has outscored Las Vegas 13-3 in the series, built a 28-7 edge in shots in the first two periods, finishing with a 38-18 advantage in a dominant performance before an announced crowd of 1,983.
“It’s embarrassing,” Wranglers coach Mike Madill said. “It’s hard to believe when guys have an opportunity to jump back into the series — and you can change the whole season with one goal — that you can’t find a way to do it.”
Game 4, at 7:05 p.m. Friday, could be the last one for Las Vegas at Orleans Arena, which chose not to renew the Wranglers’ lease after this season — their 11th at the 7,773-seat venue.
The team plans to play inside a tentlike structure situated on a ground-level parking lot at the Plaza in downtown Las Vegas next season.
“We’re not thinking about that at all,” Madill said. “We’re thinking about scoring a goal and getting a (penalty) kill when you have to.
“You see NHL teams win four games in a row. It’s not impossible. We’ve got to start with one. We’ve got to come out flying.”
Should the Wranglers — who have not won four straight games all season — avert a sweep, Game 5 would be at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the Orleans.
Mazzolini scored a shorthanded goal at 6:52, on a blast from the left circle, to make it 2-0 as Alaska took 11 of the 14 shots in the first.
The Wranglers’ Shawn Skelly made it a 2-1 game at 6:11 of the second when he beat Gerald Coleman (17 saves) on the power play.
Skelly, released by Alaska earlier this season following his second stint with the team, has two of Las Vegas’ three goals in the series.
The Wranglers went on another man advantage less than a minute later, but Sivak stopped any momentum when he scored an unassisted, shorthanded goal to restore the Aces’ two-goal lead.
“I think I can speak for everyone that we’re disappointed with that effort tonight, giving up a goal 14 seconds into the game. Giving up two shorthanded goals. You’re digging yourself a hole there,” Wranglers defenseman Charlie Cook said. “That being said, we can’t play victim or feel sorry for ourselves at all. All that matters is we win Friday.”
Drew MacKenzie scored on the power play 31 seconds into the third and assisted on Brett Findlay’s goal at 9:37.
The Wranglers didn’t produce many chances against Alaska’s stifling defense despite five power plays.
Rookie goalie Travis Fullerton made more than 30 saves (33) for the third straight game as Las Vegas has been outshot 115-57.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.