The ECHL's playoff leader with four game-winning goals, including two in overtime, Wranglers left wing Eric Lampe appeared poised to play the role of hero again Friday night in Florida.
But Everblades goalie John Muse wouldn't allow it.
Muse made several big saves in overtime - none bigger than his block of Lampe's wraparound bid - and Florida's Matt Marquardt scored the winning goal a few minutes later to secure the Everblades' 4-3 comeback victory and 2-1 series lead in the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals in front of 6,822 at Germain Arena in Estero.
Capitalizing on a Las Vegas turnover at the blue line, Marquardt beat Joe Fallon with a wrist shot at 13:49 of overtime after taking a pass from Bobby Raymond on a 2-on-1.
"It was just a tough overtime goal," Wranglers assistant coach Rob Pallin said. "It's too bad it went to overtime. It shouldn't have."
Florida tied it 3-3 with 3:49 left in regulation, when Matt Beca zipped a pass in front to Justin Shugg, who hit the puck into an open net.
"We had control of the game in the first and second periods. In the third period, we kind of laid back a little and they ended up scoring," Pallin said. "We had several opportunities in overtime to win it. We just couldn't bury the puck."
Muse stopped 32 of 35 shots, including a couple of strong bids by Adam Miller in overtime - when Las Vegas outshot Florida 7-6 - but his save on Lampe stung the most for the Wranglers.
"We thought his wraparound was going to be a goal," Pallin said. "By the angle (Muse) had and the way (Lampe) wrapped it around, we thought it was going to be a goal."
Shrugging off a 7-2 loss at home in Game 2 and a 1-0 deficit after the first period Friday, the Wranglers took control in the second period, outshooting the Everblades 14-6 and outscoring them 3-1.
Adam Huxley and Scott Campbell scored in the first 2:08 to give Las Vegas a 2-1 lead. Huxley banged home a loose puck at the 27-second mark to end Florida's streak of eight straight goals, and Campbell buried a rebound of a shot by Pete MacArthur for his team-leading eighth playoff goal.
The Everblades tied it 70 seconds later, when Ryan McGinnis took a pass in the slot from Brandon MacLean and beat Fallon, who turned away 30 of 34 shots.
The Wranglers regained the lead with 46 seconds left in the second, when Judd Blackwater punched a loose puck past Muse on the power play.
Las Vegas killed all four Florida power plays after the Everblades went 3-for-9 with the man advantage in Game 2.
"We responded very well," Pallin said. "The guys really battled. It was a very even game. Anybody could've won it. I thought we deserved to win this game."
The Everblades improved to 9-0 at home in the playoffs, while the Wranglers fell to 7-2 on the road.
Games 4 and 5 of the best-of-7 series are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in Florida, with Game 6, if necessary, set for Friday in Las Vegas.
"We're going to win one down here and bring it back to Vegas for Game 6," Pallin said.
■ NOTES - Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel was unavailable for comment. He was fined an undisclosed amount Friday as a result of published comments he made that were critical of the officiating in Game 2. Florida forward Leigh Salters was fined an undisclosed amount as a result of his actions in Game 2, when he received a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and a 10-minute misconduct for attacking Fallon.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.