Their 11-game winning streak came to an end, but the short-handed Wranglers still earned a point in a 2-1 shootout loss to ECHL champion Idaho on Saturday at the Orleans Arena before a season-high crowd of 6,611.
The Steelheads (7-6-6) outscored Las Vegas (15-2-1) 2-0 in the shootout to snap a team-record seven-game winless streak on the road, where they improved to 1-5-2.
Matt Craig slid a backhander between the legs of Wranglers goalie Kevin Lalande (4-0-1) in the first shootout round and Mark Bomersback scored in the same fashion in the fifth round to seal Idaho’s victory.
Steelheads goalie Kellen Briggs stopped all four shots in the shootout — by Tyler Mosienko, Peter Ferraro, Bruce Mulherin and Shawn Limpright — and made 27 saves in regulation and overtime to improve to 4-1 in his last five starts.
It was still an impressive performance by Las Vegas, which dressed only 13 skaters for its fifth game in seven nights and third in three.
“Playing with 13, 14 guys for five games in seven nights, it’s pretty unreal,” said defenseman Mike McBain, who suited up for the second straight game after serving as assistant coach the rest of the season. “It’s a real testament to those guys to get as many points as they did in these games.”
Wranglers coach Glen Gulutzan also was impressed with the grit shown by his players over the last week.
“If someone had asked us if we’re going to play five games in seven nights with 14, 13 and 12 guys, would you take nine out of 10 points, the answer is yes,” he said. “Idaho was a little bit better than us tonight, but we hung in there and played well enough to put ourselves in position to get a point.”
The Wranglers had two prime chances to score with four minutes left in regulation. First, Sean Owens skated through several players before getting stopped deep in the left circle by Briggs, who came out of the net to make the save. Shawn Limpright fired the rebound on the empty net, but Steelheads defenseman Darrell Hay got in goal in time to stop the shot.
The Wranglers tied it 1-1 with the help of a lucky bounce with 4:46 left in the second period. Aaron Power rifled the puck around the boards from center ice on the power play, and it somehow bounced in front of the net, where Ryan Donally streaked in and lifted a backhander past Briggs.
Idaho took a 1-0 lead 2:56 into the second period when Chad Brownlee scored from the point. The puck sailed through traffic and appeared to hit a player in front of the net before sneaking past Lalande, but Brownlee was credited with the goal.
The Steelheads struggled on the power play for the third straight day, going 0-for-7 — and 1-for-19 in Las Vegas — after starting the game with the best one in the league. Idaho came up empty on a pair of two-man advantages, one in each of the first two periods. Power hit the ice to use his body as a shield several times and Lalande, who made 34 saves in regulation and overtime, made several stellar saves to kill the penalties.
Wranglers center Chris Ferraro missed his second straight game with the flu.
Las Vegas begins a five-game road trip Friday at Stockton and won’t return home until Dec. 17, when it will play Phoenix in its annual midnight game.Las