The last time the Wranglers played at home, they faced elimination in Game 7 of their Pacific Division semifinal series against Bakersfield, Calif., and responded with a 5-1 victory to advance in the ECHL playoffs.
Las Vegas doesn't face a must-win situation today in Game 2 of its division finals series against Stockton, Calif., at the Orleans Arena.
But the contest could turn out to be crucial, considering a loss would put the Wranglers in a 2-0 hole when the series returns to Stockton for the next two games of the best-of-7 series.
"It's early in the series and some people might not think it matters, but it's a very big deal, especially because of the schedule," Las Vegas defenseman Mike Madill said. "If we can (win) this one at home, we'd go into their building (tied) 1-1 with two games to play there. And if we can (win a game) there, we'd come back to our rink in a very good spot.
"If you look at the series like a chess match, it's a very important game."
Wranglers forward Adam Miller, who scored a goal in Friday's 4-3 loss to the Thunder in Game 1, said it's important to get off to a good start tonight.
"We're just focused on the first 20 minutes," he said. "Hopefully, the crowd's on our side and we get them into it. That's why we have home-ice advantage.
"We need to come out of there with the win."
Including the regular season, the home team has won all seven meetings between Las Vegas and Stockton this season.
It's often said a two-goal lead is the worst kind to have in hockey and the Wranglers have proven that theory in this year's playoffs. They've blown four two-goal, first-period leads en route to three losses, including in Game 1.
"You get that one goal and you get momentum on your side, and it makes it easier to score that second one," Miller said. "But if we get this team by three (goals), they'll fall apart. They were already yelling at each other when we were up 2-0, trying to figure it out ... but mistakes cost us and they came out with the win.
"We've got to learn how to play with the lead and we've really got to embrace our leads."
Mike Hamilton and Justin Taylor each scored to give Las Vegas a 2-0 lead 6:06 into Game 1, but the Thunder struck for three goals in less than three minutes later in the first period to take a 3-2 edge.
Miller tied it 3-3 early in the second, but Cory Urquhart, who leads Stockton with eight goals and 11 points in the playoffs, netted the game winner early in the third.
Despite squandering several leads in the playoffs, Wranglers coach Glen Gulutzan said he's isn't concerned.
"You can't protect the lead for (54) minutes," Gulutzan said. "If you lose a 2-0 lead with eight minutes left in the game, that's something to talk about, but if you lose a 2-0 lead six minutes into the game, it's not an issue."
Nevertheless, Las Vegas did discuss ways to hold onto leads during its first-round series against the Bakersfield Condors.
"In the playoffs, everybody's working so hard, you can't lay back and sit on a one- or two-goal lead," Madill said. "You've got to keep pushing and try to get that third or fourth goal."
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354