After a scoreless first period in Tuesday's Game 6 at the Orleans Arena, an irate Wranglers coach Glen Gulutzan questioned his team's desire to extend the series.
Facing elimination, Las Vegas answered the call of its fiery coach, scoring three unanswered goals en route to a 3-1 win over Bakersfield that tied the Pacific Division semifinals and sent the series to a decisive Game 7, set for 7:30 tonight at the Orleans Arena.
"Gully came in and kind of tore a strip out of all of us," Las Vegas right wing J.D. Watt said. "He said 'I expect a lot more out of you guys.'
"Going into the second period 0-0 and having your coach scream at you really sends a message, and I think the guys responded well."
Gulutzan said the Wranglers have "got to be better" tonight "if we want to win this series."
"It's anybody's game," he said. "It's going to come down to who wants to keep playing more."
After tying Game 6 1-1 late in the second period on a power-play goal by defenseman Dan Spang, Las Vegas took the lead for good on a power-play goal by Watt 2:04 into the third.
Defenseman Sean Owens set up the winning score, carrying the puck from the boards to the point, where he fired it on net. Watt deflected it past Condors goalie Yutaka Fukufuji (33 saves) to give the Wranglers a 2-1 lead.
"That was just a great play by Sean Owens," said Watt, who also dished out several hard hits. "We did the same thing in practice this morning. He beat a defenseman and made a great shot. I barely moved that puck at all. I was just in the right spot in front of the net."
Dan Riedel gave Las Vegas a bit of breathing room a few minutes later when he lifted a one-timer into the back of the net on a backdoor play to make it a 3-1 game. Kelly Czuy zipped a pass from the left circle to the bottom of the right circle, and Riedel hit it in stride.
Bakersfield took a 1-0 lead 5:53 into the second period when Dave Bonk beat Wranglers goalie Glenn Fisher.
But Fisher stopped every other shot, making 30 saves, several of them spectacular.
"He made some really big saves when we needed them, at crucial points in the game," Gulutzan said. "That's the kind of goaltending you need in the playoffs."
Las Vegas tied it 1-1 with 1:56 left in the second when Spang snapped a wrist shot from the left circle into the top of the net.
"Spang's goal was an NHL goal," Gulutzan said. "Not many guys can score the way he did there. He had no space and no time, and he snapped the puck like an NHL (player) would."
The Wranglers went 2-for-3 with the man advantage and killed four Condors power plays, including a key two-man advantage midway through the second period.
Center Tyler Mosienko is expected to return to Las Vegas for tonight's game, the second Game 7 in the history of the Wranglers, who beat Idaho 6-2 in 2006 to cap a comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.
"We think the pressure's on them right now," Watt said. "They were up 3-2, and now we've tied the series. We've got to try to use home-ice advantage as much as we can and build off the crowd. It was big (Tuesday), and it's going to be huge (tonight)."
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.