‘Brutal’ first period dooms Wranglers as Elmira halts six-game losing streak

Only one team showed up to play in the first period Friday night at the Orleans Arena.

It wasn’t the Wranglers, who came out flat and didn’t come alive until it was too late in a 4-3 loss to the Elmira (N.Y.) Jackals in front of a crowd of 4,176.

Las Vegas fell behind 1-0 in the first period, when it was outshot 13-4, and trailed 4-1 in the third before netting a pair of late power-play goals.

“We were brutal in the first period,” Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel said. “I’ve never seen us that bad.”

Well-rested Elmira (20-18-5), which had the previous four days off, started fast and never trailed in snapping a six-game losing streak.

Western Conference-leading Las Vegas (28-14-3), which was playing its sixth game in eight days, appeared to be running on fumes as it suffered its third loss in four games.

“We didn’t come ready to play,” said Wranglers center Chris Higgins, who had a goal and an assist. “We weren’t moving our feet too well, we weren’t finishing our checks, and we weren’t playing simple. Those three things are huge.”

A.J. Perry scored two third-period goals in 3:14 to give the Jackals a 4-1 lead with 6:09 remaining. He netted a one-timer from the slot to make it 3-1 at 10:37 and all but sealed the victory when he deflected a shot from the point by Eric Regan past Las Vegas goalie Joe Fallon (24 saves).

The Wranglers, who were on the power play for the final 4:13, closed within 4-2 when Matt Price scored in front of the net off a quick feed from Ryan Huddy, who had three assists.

Las Vegas, which outshot Elmira 17-9 in the third, made it 4-3 when Geoff Paukovich scored on a deflection with eight seconds remaining.

Jackals goalie Garrett Zemlak (5-7-3) stopped 26 of 29 shots.

Former Wranglers forward Justin Donati had three assists to increase his ECHL-leading total to 42.

Regan gave the Jackals a 1-0 lead midway through the first period when he took a cross-ice pass from Donati and scored from the right circle.

Higgins tied it at 1 at 1:28 of the second when he took a cross-crease pass from Huddy and scored into an open net.

Elmira regained the lead, at 2-1, at 4:31 when Andrew Sweetland scored on a wrist shot from the slot.

The Jackals incurred 47 penalty minutes on 14 infractions, including four on former Wranglers defenseman Chris Frank, who received a roughing minor and charging major with 4:13 left.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.

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