Tuesday, May 15, 2012 | 2:04 a.m.
One game down. Three to go.
The Las Vegas Wranglers battled Monday until the final seconds of regulation to preserve a 2-1 victory against Florida Everblades at the Orleans Arena in the first game of a best-of-seven-game Kelly Cup Finals series.
Florida out-shot Las Vegas 33-23, but Las Vegas goalie Joe Fallon continued his hot play with 32 saves to help the Wranglers — 12-2 in the postseason and riding a five-game winning streak — inch closer to the title.
Las Vegas led 2-0 entering the final period, but was limited to four shots in the final 20 minutes. Florida pulled its goalie for an extra attacker in the final minutes and cut its deficit to one goal by scoring with two minutes to play. Florida continued with the pressure in the final seconds, but Las Vegas didn’t break in earning the win.
“It’s a big win for us and a big momentum builder,” Las Vegas’ Eric Lampe said. “We have to put that one behind us and focus on the next game. Hopefully we’ll get the same outcome.”
After not registering a shot-on-goal in the first 10 minutes , Las Vegas regrouped from a sluggish start to score the opening goal of the game on a Peter MacArthur rebound opportunity from in front of the Everblades’ net at the 13:43 mark of the first period.
In a scramble for the loose puck, MacArthur poked in a goal from just outside the crease to hand the Wranglers the lead with less than seven minutes remaining in the opening frame. Eric Lampe and Adam Miller were credited with assists on the score.
“It’s always good to get out on the scoreboard early, especially in the Finals when you have a hot team coming in,” MacArthur said. “It was a good play by Lampe and Miller going to the net. I stuck to it and banged away and it crossed the goal line.”
Las Vegas defenseman Mike Madill picked up a four minute penalty for a double minor high sticking violation early in the second period, but the Wranglers killed the Everblades’ power play to remain in the lead.
“I think the big thing was that our penalty kill stepped up on the four minute penalty,” Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel said. “It’s funny how some teams get going off the power play. I think our team gets going off the penalty kill. I thought we had some good momentum after that kill.”
The Wranglers used that momentum from the penalty kill to take a 2-0 advantage later in the second period when Lampe was able to sneak a puck inside the Florida goal post for his seventh goal of the playoffs. Miller and Madill were awarded assists on the goal.
The Everblades trimmed their deficit in half on a Mike Ratchuk goal with two minutes remaining in regulation.
Ratchuk controlled a centering pass from Matt Marquardt and fired a slap shot past Joe Fallon for Florida’s lone goal of the game. The Everblades were averaging 3.69 goals per game in the playoffs prior to Monday’s loss.
The iron was unkind for the Everblades as they had four shots ricochet off the Las Vegas goal post, including one in the final minute of regulation that would have tied the game.
Stars of the game: 1. Joe Fallon (32 saves); 2. Eric Lampe (1 goal, 1 assist); 3. Peter MacArthur (1 goal).
Next up: The Wranglers return to the ice at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday as they take on Florida in Game 2 of the Kelly Cup Finals at the Orleans Arena. If necessary, the Wranglers are scheduled to host Games 6 and 7 on May 25 and 26.