STEPHEN SYLVANIE / SPECIAL TO THE SUN
Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012 | 1:10 a.m.
Las Vegas forward Josh Lunden scored a power-play goal at the 6:13 mark of the third period to cap a 2-1 come-from-behind victory for the Wranglers as they defeated Alaska for the first time on the season.
Wranglers (29-14-1-3) defenseman Jeff May fired a shot on net and Lunden cleaned up the rebound for his 13th goal of the year for the game-winner.
“It was a great play by the defensemen,” Lunden said. “It went from Madill over to May and he put it on net. It touched one of their guys and I deflected it, and it just managed to get over his pad on the short side.”
The Wranglers killed three Alaska power plays in the final 13 minutes of action to hang on to defeat the ECHL point leaders and improve to 17-4-2 on their home ice on the season.
“It’s a huge win,” Lunden said. “It’s a playoff-like atmosphere here right now. They’re ahead of us in the standings. They’re in first and we’re in second, and we’re trying to catch them. These are four-point games and we’re glad we came back tonight.”
After a scoreless first period, the Aces took the initial lead of the game 35 seconds into the second period as Jordan Kremyr deflected in a goal near the net for a second consecutive night.
Just like Thursday’s game, the Wranglers quickly responded to Alaska’s opening goal of the game with a goal of their own.
Geoff Paukovich handled a Ryan Weston centering pass from behind the cage and banged the puck by Aces netminder Adam Courchaine for the tying goal just over a minute after falling behind 1-0.
Last week’s ECHL Goaltender of the Week Joe Fallon recorded 26 saves, including 12 in the final period to pick up his 24th victory of the year.
Stars of the game: 1. Josh Lunden (1 goal); 2. Geoff Paukovich (1 goal); 3. Joe Fallon (26 saves).
Penalty killers: The Wranglers killed all five of the Aces power play opportunities on the game, including three in the third period with a goal advantage. Alaska had the league’s seventh best power play goal rate of 18.6 percent prior to the game.
Narrowing the gap: With the win, the Wranglers pulled within eight points of Alaska who lead the league with 70 points. Las Vegas has an opportunity to trim the deficit to six points with a win in the series finale against the Aces Saturday night.
Next up: The Wranglers take on the Aces Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in the deciding game of the three-games series between the top two scoring teams in the league. Alaska currently holds a 3-1 series advantage over the Wranglers on the year.
Final word: “We’ve been most consistent all year in third periods,” Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “I thought the guys played really well. We gave up a lot of chances at the end, but our penalty kill stepped up and our power play stepped up.”