Geoff Paukovich set the tone in Game 1, when he sacrificed his body to block four shots on a Utah power play.
"That was the key to this series," Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel said. "It got the guys to buy in."
Fittingly, the 6-foot-4-inch Paukovich scored a late goal Thursday to help seal Las Vegas' 4-2 victory at Orleans Arena and finish a three-game sweep of the Grizzlies in the ECHL Western Conference quarterfinals.
"It's been kind of a slow year for me," said Paukovich, who also had an assist. "To do it in the playoffs and kind of clinch the series, it's one of the biggest moments of my career so far."
With the Wranglers clinging to a 3-2 lead, Paukovich took a pass from Eric Lampe, skated in from the blue line, deked a defender and beat Andrew Engelage with 7:59 left.
"It was pretty and it was huge for us to get that two-goal lead," Scott Campbell said. "They were coming hard for us."
After losing in five games in the first round in each of the last two seasons, the Wranglers were ecstatic to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
"This team had some tough bounces the past two years. To get over that hump is huge emotionally and mentally," Campbell said. "Hopefully we can keep riding this wave."
Third-seeded Las Vegas will face the winner of the No. 2 Ontario-No. 7 Idaho series, which is tied 1-1, with Game 3 today.
The schedule for the next round has yet to be determined.
"I was here last year and it left a bitter taste in our mouth, because we had such a good team," Paukovich said. "This team can do special things."
The Wranglers trailed Utah for the first time in the series early in the second period when Kory Falite beat Mitch O'Keefe (24 saves) from the right circle for a 2-1 edge.
But the Grizzlies' lead didn't last long. Less than two minutes later, Campbell scored a power-play goal that appeared to bank in off Engelage's pads to tie it 2-2.
"I was just whacking at it on the side of the net and was fortunate to get a bounce," Campbell said. "I don't know how it went in."
Ash Goldie scored the decisive goal five minutes later, beating Engelage with a blast from the left circle off Sean Wiles' second assist.
O'Keefe helped take care of the rest, stopping 24 of 26 shots. The former Utah goalie turned away 91 of 95 in the series.
"He's been awesome," Mougenel said. "He really stepped up."
Adam Miller (goal, four assists) and Eric Lampe (two goals, five assists) combined for 12 points in the series and teamed up to give Las Vegas a 1-0 lead Thursday.
Miller took a pass in the slot from Lampe and scored to put the Wranglers ahead at 11:24 of the first period.
Utah countered with two straight goals. Derick Martin tied it 1-1 with 3:41 left in the first, scoring on an odd-man rush.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.