A night after chasing mammoth Utah goalie Mikko Koskinen with four goals in less than seven minutes, the Wranglers struggled against the 6-foot-7-inch netminder in Game 2 of the ECHL National Conference quarterfinals.
Koskinen, who suffered a 6-4 loss to Las Vegas a day earlier, redeemed himself Wednesday by stopping 33 of 34 shots to lead the Grizzlies to a 4-1 victory before a crowd of 2,298 at the Orleans Arena.
“We’ve just got to get more traffic to him,” said Wranglers left wing Ned Lukacevic, who led the team in shots with nine but was held scoreless for the second straight game. “We got a lot of shots tonight, but we’ve got to get dirtier in the crease area.”
Four players scored for Utah, which erased an early 1-0 deficit to even the best-of-5 series at one game apiece.
“It’s frustrating when you go up 1-0 and get a chance to take a stranglehold on the series,” Lukacevic said. “But we didn’t expect to go through the series and win every game.”
The rest of the series will take place at the E-Center in West Valley City, Utah, where Las Vegas lost six of seven games against the Grizzlies in the regular season.
“That means nothing to me,” Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel said. “We’re not the same team we were in the regular season, and neither are they. It’s a new season, and we’re 0-0 there.”
The Wranglers went up 1-0 2:29 into the game, when Kyle Hagel poked in a rebound of a Chris Neiszner shot for his third goal of the series.
But Utah answered less than four minutes later, when Peter Vandermeer scored from point-blank range.
The turning point came with 5:36 left in the first, when James Sixsmith scored a short-handed, breakaway goal to give the Grizzlies the lead for good at 2-1.
Las Vegas went 0-for-6 on the power play and is 1-for-14 in the series with the man advantage.
“I won’t say our effort wasn’t there, but our execution definitely wasn’t,” Mougenel said. “They did a real good job, from the very first shift, going to our net extremely hard.”
After a scoreless second period in which Wranglers goalie Jimmy Spratt (26 saves) stopped Vandermeer’s penalty shot, AJ Perry converted a power-play goal 3:58 into the third period to extend Utah’s edge to 3-1.
Tim Crowder added an empty-net goal with 1:51 left.
■ NOTE — Wranglers center Adam Miller was named the ECHL Player of the Month for March, when he scored 28 points and averaged two per game.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.UTAH 4
LAS VEGAS 1
KEY: Mikko Koskinen made 33 saves and four players scored for the Grizzlies.
NEXT: Game 3, Wranglers at Grizzlies, 6:05 p.m. Saturday, E-Center, West Valley City, Utah