It took awhile for the Wranglers to wake up Wednesday night. By the time they did, Idaho was well on its way to a victory.
The Steelheads started strong and never let up en route to a 4-2 victory over Las Vegas in Game 3 of the National Conference semifinals at the Orleans Arena.
Four players scored goals for Idaho, which took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 4 is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. today at the Orleans Arena.
The Wranglers enter the game on a two-game losing streak after having won an ECHL-record 18 straight.
"We came out a little flat, and it cost us," Wranglers right wing Adam Cracknell said. "We just weren't ready. But we know what we have to do (tonight) -- come out harder, win some battles and bury our chances."
Cracknell scored on a slap shot from the right point to make the score 3-2 midway through the third period -- snapping the team's 36:03 scoreless drought -- but Idaho quickly extinguished any hopes of a Las Vegas comeback.
B.J. Crombeen restored the Steelheads' two-goal lead 3:03 later with an unassisted goal from the right circle that trickled between the legs of Wranglers goalie Mike McKenna.
"McKenna let in a weak one," Las Vegas coach Glen Gulutzan said. "That hurt, but that's neither here nor there. We shouldn't have been in that spot. If you're trying to win a playoff game at home, you can't put yourself in that spot, down 3-1.
"They came out full of juice, and they capitalized early. We came out determined, almost too determined. We were a little tight."
Crombeen's goal deflated the crowd of 4,076 as Idaho ended the Wranglers' 11-game home winning streak two nights after stopping their record run. Las Vegas lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time since Dec. 18.
The Steelheads outshot the Wranglers 7-0 to start the game, taking a 1-0 lead on their seventh shot as Tuomas Mikkonen buried a rebound in front of the net on the power play at the 5:47 mark.
The Wranglers tied the score 1-1 with their only power-play goal in six chances when Nick Anderson lifted a rebound in front of the net past Idaho goalie Steve Silverthorn.
Less than four minutes later, John Lammers netted Idaho's second power-play goal in the team's three chances -- ripping a rebound from the right circle past McKenna -- to give the Steelheads a 2-1 lead.
Lance Galbraith and Marty Flichel assisted on the score, and the duo teamed for another goal early in the second period to make the score 3-1.
Galbraith skated around the back of the net, then sent a pass across a crowded crease that somehow found its way to a waiting Flichel, who scored from point-blank range.
The Wranglers outshot Idaho 25-6 in the last two periods and 34-21 overall but couldn't solve Silverthorn, who made 32 saves.
"Their goalie was really good again tonight," Gulutzan said.
Silverthorn said the key was his team's fast start.
"We came out really hard and had a good start, and that's always important," he said. "(But) we've got to win four games to win the series. A 2-1 lead means nothing."
The Wranglers went the distance with Idaho while splitting two prior playoff series, losing in five games in 2003-04 and winning in seven games last year. Las Vegas trailed Idaho 3-1 last season before becoming the second team in league history to overcome that deficit to win a best-of-7 series.
"They got some bounces to go their way, and the only way you get those bounces is if you work hard and stay positive," Gulutzan said. "We've got to keep battling, keep working and stay positive."