Wranglers hold lead, tie series

The Wranglers finally figured out how to hold on to a two-goal lead Friday.

“We need three,” Wranglers coach Glen Gulutzan said. “That’s the key.”

For the third straight game, Las Vegas jumped to a 2-0 first-period lead, but this time the Wranglers got the job done, beating Bakersfield 4-0 in Game 4 of the ECHL Pacific Division semifinals at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, Calif.

The win ties the best-of-7 series at 2, with Game 5 at 7 p.m. today in Bakersfield. The victory also guarantees a Game 6 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Orleans Arena.

“Whenever you go down 3-1, you certainly are reducing your odds of getting a victory in the series,” Gulutzan said. “You want to go 2-2 into a series, and now it’s a best-of-3.

“Boy, if we can get one more (today) and get two cracks at it at home, that’s something we’re certainly aiming for.”

Wranglers goaltender John DeCaro made 34 saves to get the shutout after allowing six goals on 55 shots in a 6-5 loss Wednesday in Game 3.

“We didn’t think in Game 3 he was an issue,” Gulutzan said. “At some point, you try to get someone on a roll, and tonight he played well.”

Las Vegas scored two power-play goals 29 seconds apart in the first period. Kelly Czuy cashed in on a 5-on-3 advantage for his fourth goal of the playoffs at 5:58. With the Wranglers still a man up, J.D. Watt made the score 2-0 with his first goal of the playoffs.

“We got those two goals early in the first, and we settled in and played our game after that,” said DeCaro, who made 14 saves in the third period.

The Wranglers outshot Bakersfield 20-7 in the second period and killed off three straight Condors power plays. Bakersfield finished 0-for-7 on the power play.

“When we killed three in a row there, I thought that was a big change for us,” Gulutzan said. “The guys did a great job killing those off.”

The Wranglers put the game away in the third, as Mick Lawrence and Dan Riedel each beat Bakersfield goalie Yutaka Fukufuji (33 saves).

Gulutzan shuffled his lineup for the game, inserting defensemen Bret Tyler and Brandon Straub while scratching Mike Madill and Jason Dest.

Tyler paired with Chris St. Croix on the blue line and helped shut down Bakersfield’s top line of Mark Derlago, Dave Bonk and Chad Painchaud, which accounted for four goals and eight points in Game 3.

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