Wranglers blow another lead, fall in OT

For the second straight game, the Wranglers skated to a 2-0 lead over Bakersfield in the ECHL Pacific Division semifinals. Just like the first time, they wasted the lead and suffered a disheartening loss.

Bruce Graham scored off a rebound on a power play 15:26 into overtime, giving Bakersfield a 6-5 victory over Las Vegas in front of 4,544 fans Wednesday at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, Calif.

Graham's backhander, set up by a shot by Donny Grover, beat Wranglers goalie John DeCaro (49 saves) and gave the Condors a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series, which resumes Friday at Bakersfield.

"We hit three crossbars in (overtime), so we had our chances, but it's about converting right now and they're converting better than we are," Wranglers coach Glen Gulutzan said. "They're a high-powered offense. When we got ahead, it didn't faze them."

Las Vegas defenseman Mike Madill said, "It's only 2-1 and it's still early in the series. There's lots and lots of hockey left here."

The Wranglers, who were outshot 55-52, wasted two two-goal leads in the first period.

Steve Makway and Kelly Czuy scored 2:07 apart to give Las Vegas a 2-0 lead midway through the period, but the Condors' Dave Bonk countered with two goals less than three minutes apart to tie it 2-2 with 2:25 left in the first.

Bonk, who scored four goals, made it 2-1 with 5:21 left in the period and added a power-play goal to tie it 2-all.

Las Vegas wasted little time answering, though, as Mike Hamilton scored 24 seconds later to give the Wranglers a 3-2 edge. Barely a minute later, rookie Scott McCulloch made the score 4-2 with the Wranglers' first power-play goal of the series, in the final minute of the period.

The Condors scored three straight goals in the second period to take a 5-4 lead.

"They've got a lot of chemistry here," Gulutzan said. "They made some great plays. We made some mistakes and they stuck it to us."

Andrew Ianiero scored at the 3:48 mark to cut Bakersfield's deficit to 4-3. Bonk scored his third goal, on a power play, to tie it at 4-all, then he gave the Condors a 5-4 lead with 6:59 to play in the second.

Again, the Wranglers quickly answered, with Dan Spang scoring less than a minute later at the start of a two-man advantage to knot it 5-5.

The teams went scoreless for the next 41 minutes, 30 seconds until Graham decided it.

Spang had two assists for Las Vegas and Chad Painchaud and Jay Langager each had three assists for Bakersfield. Yutaka Fukufuji stopped 47 of 52 shots for the Condors.

Bakersfield finished 3-for-6 on the power play, and Las Vegas was 2-for-6.