Defense and goaltending have carried the Wranglers to the ECHL’s best winning percentage (.679) heading into the All-Star break.
But it was Las Vegas’ offense that led the way to a 6-5 shootout victory over the Bakersfield Condors on Sunday at the Orleans Arena.
Five players scored in regulation for the Wranglers — who erased five one-goal deficits to force overtime — and three players scored in the shootout.
Blair Riley beat Bakersfield goalie Josh Tordjman with a backhander in the second shootout round and Chris Higgins scored in the fourth to give Las Vegas a 2-0 lead.
Brad Snetsinger then beat Wranglers goalie Michael Ouzas to keep the Condors alive. But Colin Long slid the puck between Tordjman’s legs in the fifth round to seal the win for Las Vegas (25-11-3), which leads the Western Conference with 53 points.
“We weren’t good defensively. We were not ourselves,” coach Ryan Mougenel said. “But one thing this team is is resilient, and they showed it.”
Ouzas (12-4-1), who entered with the league’s best goals-against average (2.17), allowed five goals on 29 shots in regulation and overtime in his second straight start after missing 13 games with an injury. But Ouzas, who will start for the ECHL All-Stars against host Bakersfield (21-18-2) on Wednesday, stopped three of four shots in the shootout.
“I wanted to get Ouzas back on track,” Mougenel said. “He struggled a little bit, but hopefully he’ll be all right for the All-Star Game and get right back to where he was before he got injured.”
Starting with a goal 49 seconds into the game by Bakersfield forward Adam Naglich, the teams alternated all 10 goals in regulation.
Naglich, a Bonanza High product, had two goals, one shorthanded, and an assist to lead the Condors.
Long and Eddie DelGrosso, a Centennial High product, each had a goal and an assist to lead the Wranglers, and Justin Bernhardt had two assists.
Bobby Robins scored on a wrist shot from the boards to give Bakersfield a 4-3 lead with 1:08 left in the second period.
Long tied it at 4-all at 4:52 of the third, when he took pass in front of the net from Bernhardt and buried the shot.
The Condors took the lead for the fifth and final time at 6:44 when Jean-Francois David scored from the high slot to make it 5-4. But the Wranglers answered again with 6:37 remaining, when Higgins scored on a deflection of a shot by DelGrosso.
Jerry Pollastrone and Jamie Fritsch also scored for Las Vegas, which outshot Bakersfield 40-29 and went 0-for-9 on the power play.
“We showed the resiliency of our team,” Ouzas said. “Just to be able to pull that out was huge for us.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354.LAS VEGAS — 6 BAKERSFIELD — 5
KEY: Colin Long scored in the final round of a shootout to seal the Wranglers’ victory.
NEXT: Wranglers at Victoria, 7:05 p.m. Friday