Despite not trailing in regulation during either of their first two ECHL playoff games, the Wranglers have nothing to show for it.
Harrison Reed beat Joe Fallon at 1:44 of overtime on Saturday night at Stockton Arena to give the Thunder a 3-2 comeback victory over Las Vegas and a 2-0 lead in their best-of-7 Western Conference quarterfinal series.
The Wranglers, who squandered leads of 1-0 and 2-1 on Saturday after blowing a 2-0 third-period advantage in Friday’s 3-2 overtime loss, will host Games 3, 4 and, if necessary, 5 at 7:05 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at Orleans Arena.
“We’re in a series. Two overtimes and two bounces,” Las Vegas coach Ryan Mougenel said. “We’re not going to sit here and feel sorry for ourselves. I loved our team’s effort. We didn’t get the bounces, and their goalie (Olivier Roy) made some big saves. That’s the way it goes.”
After a scoreless third period, Reed fought his way into the slot in overtime before punching the puck past Fallon, who stopped 26 of 29 shots.
The Thunder, which had one of the ECHL’s best home records in the regular season at 22-11-3, tied it at 2 on Shawn Weller’s second goal with 4:21 left in the second period. Weller, who also tied it 1-1 late in the first period, rifled the puck past Fallon from the right circle for Stockton, which only mustered six shots on goal in the frame.
After a slow start to the game, the Pacific Division rivals combined for three goals in the final 3:33 of the first period.
Las Vegas took a 1-0 lead for the second straight night off a deflection of a point shot by team captain Mike Madill.
Judd Blackwater redirected the puck behind his back in the slot, beating Roy (28 saves) at the 16:27 mark.
The Thunder tied it with 1:59 left, when Weller buried a rebound in front of the net on the power play (Madill was whistled for holding). The Wranglers regained the lead with 25 seconds remaining, when Scott Pitt beat Roy off a nice feed from Matt Campanale on a rush to the net.
“It’s a man’s game, and I need some of my guys to play like men. That’s the biggest thing,” Mougenel said. “Maybe they thought it was going to be easy, but this is playoff hockey. You’ve got to fight through checks and you’ve got to play hard all the time.
“We’ve got to play with confidence and put our foot on the gas instead of laying back and giving team’s chances.”
■ NOTE — The Wranglers were missing injured defenseman Jamie Fritsch and injured forwards Robbie Smith and Adam Hughesman.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354.