Leading 3-1 with less than 10 minutes to play Thursday, the Wranglers appeared to have the game in hand against the expansion Colorado Eagles at Orleans Arena.
But it was far from over.
Colorado exploded for four consecutive goals down the stretch to deal Las Vegas a stunning 5-3 loss in front of a crowd of 3,064.
“It’s a sign of an uncharacteristic team that I’ve had where they’re mentally weak,” an exasperated third-year Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel said.
The Eagles (3-2-0) rallied for two goals in 88 seconds to tie the game at 3-all.
Chad Costello scored a power-play goal in front of the net at the 10:24 mark to make it a 3-2 game and Pat Knowlton scored on a deflection in front of the net at 11:52 to tie it.
Jack Combs scored a shorthanded goal at the 15:12 mark to give the Eagles (3-2-0) the lead for good. He rifled home a rebound in the slot of a shot by Jon Landry to give Colorado a 4-3 edge.
The decisive score was delivered shortly after Akim Aliu came up empty on a shorthanded breakaway for the Eagles, and Mougenel was irate about his team’s performance with a man advantage.
“Our power play, not only do they not score goals, but they gave up the most chances. It’s disgusting. I’m disgusted,” Mougenel said. “It’s embarrassing as a coach and I take ownership of it because I keep putting the same guys out there. And it can’t keep happening. My so-called go-to guys, they’re not getting it done.
“Changes have to be made. The fans aren’t going to like it, because they’re popular players. But they either get on board or they’re out of here, because I’ve got guys on the (injured reserve) that are begging to come back to play. It’s a wakeup call for their jobs, that’s what it is.”
For the record, forwards Adam Miller, Judd Blackwater and Scott Campbell were on the ice for Las Vegas (2-3-1) when the shorthanded goal was scored.
Miller opened the scoring with a power-play goal in the first period, when he swatted a puck out of mid-air into the net, off a pass from Eric Lampe. Blackwater also assisted on the goal.
Lampe stole the puck in the slot and scored an unassisted goal, his league-leading fifth, a few minutes later to give the Wranglers a 2-0 lead.
Colorado closed to within 2-1 late in the second, when Riley Nelson scored.
Ryan Weston restored Las Vegas’ two-goal lead less than a minute into the third, when he blocked a shot on one end and then scored an unassisted breakaway goal.
Aliu added an empty-net goal for the Eagles with one second left.
“We just got too complacent,” Miller said. “We need to start learning how to play with the lead, get pucks deep and work the time down.
“We need to hold ourselves accountable and learn how to win.”
Joe Fallon (1-2-1) stopped 31 of 35 shots for the Wranglers, who went 1-for-6 on the power play.
Kyle Jones (3-1-0) had 38 saves for the Eagles, who went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354.COLORADO — 5
LAS VEGAS — 3
KEY: The Eagles scored four unanswered goals in the third period to erase a 3-1 deficit.
NEXT: Eagles at Wranglers, 7:05 p.m. today, Orleans Arena