Two of the most exciting words in sports — Game 7 — were made mundane by the Wranglers in their wire-to-wire 5-1 win over Bakersfield on Wednesday at the Orleans Arena.
But that’s just fine with them. For the fourth straight season, the Wranglers are headed to the second round of the ECHL playoffs.
“It’s a pretty sweet feeling no matter how you win in Game 7, (especially) to come back from down 3-2 (in the series),” said Las Vegas center Chris Neiszner, who had two goals and an assist. “We just battled together. In any seven-game series, everybody’s got to contribute. You can’t tell me there wasn’t a guy on our roster who didn’t do something to contribute.”
The Wranglers put forth a total team effort on Wednesday. Four players scored goals, seven players had assists, and goaltender Glenn Fisher stopped 31 of 32 shots.
Second-seeded Las Vegas advances to face the fourth-seeded Stockton (Calif.) Thunder in the Pacific Division finals, with Game 1 of the best-of-7 series scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday in California.
Stockton defeated Ontario 5-4 on Wednesday in Game 7 of their Pacific Division semifinal series.
The Wranglers have home-ice advantage in the series but will open on the road because of a scheduling conflict at the Orleans Arena. In fact, Las Vegas will play three of the first four games on the road.
Game 2 is Monday at the Orleans Arena, where Games 5, 6 and 7 (if necessary) also will be played.
“You can’t control that, so why worry about it,” Wranglers coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We better win one (in Stockton). You’ve got to win in other people’s buildings. That’s the way it is.”
Las Vegas was in control of Game 7 from the outset, scoring at the 6:01 mark to take a 1-0 lead. The Wranglers led 2-0 after the first period, extended the lead to 3-0 early in the second and never trailed, improving to 2-0 all time in Game 7s.
The Wranglers enjoyed a two-man advantage for more than two minutes early in the game.
With one second left on their power play, defenseman Chris St. Croix beat Condors goalie Yutaka Fukufuji (23 saves) from close range to give Las Vegas a 1-0 lead.
“That could’ve been the difference maker, that one second there,” Gulutzan said.
Neiszner netted the next two goals to give the Wranglers a 3-0 lead. He buried a rebound of a backhander by J.D. Watt midway through the first period and rifled a wrist shot from the left circle 1:42 into the second.
Neiszner also had the tough task of trying to shut down Bakersfield’s high-scoring line of Chad Painchaud, Mark Derlago and Dave Bonk, who combined for 27 points in the series.
“(Neiszner) was a plus-3 tonight against probably the top line in the league,” Gulutzan said. “That was a huge difference for us.”
Derlago scored a power-play goal from the point to close the gap to 3-1 midway through the second, but Dan Riedel answered with a power-play goal of his own less than two minutes later.
“This was one series where home-ice (advantage) really helped us,” Gulutzan said.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354.LAS VEGAS 5
KEY: Chris Neiszner notched two goals and had an assist, and Las Vegas goalie Glenn Fisher made 31 saves.
NEXT: Wranglers at Thunder, 7:30 p.m. Friday