Sunday, March 7, 2010 | 12:21 a.m.
For the second straight game, the Las Vegas Wranglers were down.
Trailing by two goals heading into the third period Saturday night, the Wranglers would once again have to climb out of a hole.
They did, scoring three goals in the third period to force overtime. But the Wranglers lost, 4-3, in a shootout to the Ontario Reign, before 7,818 people at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
“There were a ton of positives from tonight,” head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “At times, it was a frustrating game, but the guys played hard. They battled hard, and we found a way to get a point on the road.”
The extra point earned from the 1-0 shootout victory gives the Reign a one-point lead over Las Vegas in the National Conference standings.
Reign right-winger Jon Rheault’s goal past Wranglers goalie Joel Gistedt in the third round of the shootout was the game-winning tally.
“Did we play good enough to win both games? Last night, no,” Mougenel said. “But tonight I felt we played good. That’s just how it goes.”
What started as a special teams nightmare for Las Vegas — allowing two shorthanded goals in the first period — turned around in the final period when Adam Miller and Chris Neiszner each netted power-play goals to erase the two-goal deficit.
“The shorthanded goals are inexcusable,” Mougenel said. “That falls on me. I need to get guys on the power play that are committed to work.”
“But we got our power play back,” he said. “Our guys are on track and when we needed it most, it was there.”
The pair connected on their 22nd and ninth goals of the year, respectively, within 1:16 of each other just before the midway point of the third period.
Neiszner’s game-tying goal came at the 9:55 mark of the third period but wouldn’t be the last of regulation.
With 1:18 left on the clock, Ontario’s Geoff Walker scored on a goal assisted by Michael Pelech, for a late lead.
But with an empty net at the other end, Wranglers forward Jerry Pollastrone was, for the second straight night, in the right place at the right time. He pushed the game-tying goal past Reign goaltender Curtis Darling with 19 seconds left.
Pollastrone scored the team’s shootout-winner in Friday night’s contest.
After no shots were recorded in the five-minute overtime period, Rheault’s goal in the shootout kept Ontario ahead of Las Vegas in the standings.
Reign coach Karl Taylor made a bold move heading into the shootout, electing to swap goaltenders. Backup Mike Zacharias stopped all of the Wranglers’ five shootout attempts.
“It was a great coaching move on his part,” Mougenel said.
Las Vegas’ Gistedt allowed three goals on 35 shots and stopped four out of the five Reign shootout attempts.
“Everybody is taking ownership, which is refreshing,” Mougenel said. “And guys are finding leadership from guys like Neiszner and Mike Madill. They’ve done a great job of leading these guys to not be afraid of their success.”
The two teams will face off for the rubber match of the three-game series at 5 p.m. Sunday.