Wranglers get into series, halt Thunder in Game 3

A playmaker who’s always looking to set up his teammates, Wranglers forward Scott Pitt took matters into his own hands Monday night at Orleans Arena.

Turning on the jets on a breakaway, Pitt blew past a defender before rifling a wrist shot past Olivier Roy to give Las Vegas a 1-0 lead over Stockton midway through the second period.

The short-handed score was all the Wranglers needed en route to a 3-0 victory over the Thunder that cut their series deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-7 ECHL Western Conference quarterfinals.

Las Vegas can even the series today at home in Game 4.

“All it’s done is get us back in the ballgame,” Las Vegas coach Ryan Mougenel said. “We’ve got to duplicate that effort (today).”

The Wranglers added two third-period goals — by Judd Blackwater on the power play and an unassisted score by Carlo Finucci — and Joe Fallon stopped all 27 shots he faced.

“Judd Blackwater has been arguably our best player,” Mougenel said. “Fallon was good tonight. That’s the Joe Fallon I know and the one we need to get out of this series.”

Pitt had 12 goals and 41 assists in the regular season before scoring a goal in two straight playoff games.

“I love setting up guys,” Pitt said. “It’s just the opportunities that have arised have put me in a position where I kind of have to shoot. Luckily, it’s going in for me.”

Mougenel said Pitt needs to shoot more.

“He’s got to get that mentality, because he’s got a great shot and he’s got a touch and a knack,” he said. “He creates a lot of space for himself because he can skate. He’s playing gritty and greasy, and that’s how he has to play.”

The Wranglers squandered leads in the first two games en route to a pair of 3-2 overtime losses to the Thunder, but they kept the pressure on throughout Monday’s convincing victory.

“We let them have opportunities, but the guys did a good job of getting in lanes and being stingy defensively,” Mougenel said.

Las Vegas was 0-for-11 on the power play in the series before Blackwater beat Roy from the right circle at 2:06 of the third period.

Team captain Mike Madill assisted on the first two goals and has four assists in the series.

Andrew Clark incurred a five-minute major for checking Las Vegas’ Channing Boe from behind late in the second period and received a game misconduct.

Stockton center Eric Hunter was suspended for Monday’s game for a similar hit on Chris Francis in Saturday’s Game 2.

“We scored a goal on the power play, which is big, and we scored a short-handed goal,” said Mougenel, who couldn’t resist taking a dig at Stockton coach Matt Thomas, his close friend.

“Matty Thomas’ father said to me not too long ago that when you give up a short-handed goal, you usually lose the game,” he said. “He’s absolutely right on that one.”

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

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