Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | 12:25 a.m.
The Las Vegas Wranglers were greeted with a standing ovation from the 5,569 fans at the Orleans Arena Tuesday after racing out to a 2-0 first-period lead over the Everblades in Game 2 of the Kelly Cup Finals.
Seven unanswered goals later, Florida leaves Las Vegas with a split in the best-of-seven series, stealing home-ice advantage from the Western Conference champions with the 7-2 victory. Games 3, 4 and 5 will be played at Germain Arena in Estero, Fla., where the Everblades are 8-0 in the playoffs.
“We let it get away from us,” Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “We let their power play step up, which we obviously can’t let happen. As a coach, I’ll take ownership of it. I was frustrated. My players were frustrated and it showed. We weren’t good from the second period on.”
After Las Vegas forwards Chris Francis and Judd Blackwater gave the Wranglers a 2-0 lead with goals in the first period, the Everblades mounted a comeback with seven players tallying a goal.
“We’ve been in this position before,” said Blackwater, referring to the Western Conference Finals in which the Wranglers and Aces were tied 1-1. “We’re all smart guys in there. We have to keep our heads straight and keep it simple. We’re all confident going into Florida.”
The Everblades started their rally with a power-play goal from Mathieu Roy at the 2:22 mark of the second period. Roy controlled a centering pass from Justin Shugg and drilled a slap shot by Wranglers goaltender Joe Fallon to cut the deficit in half.
Florida tied the game on a Shugg goal at the 14:10 mark of the second period and took the lead for good on a Matt Marquardt power-play goal from the right circle with just under four minutes remaining in the period.
“Their power play keyed the turnaround for sure,” Mougenel said. “Basically all second period we were playing shorthanded. That definitely didn’t help. We have to be better on the kill. We have to be better on the power play as well.”
After trailing 3-2 entering the final 20 minutes, the Wranglers opened the third period with 1:35 left on a power play, but were unable to capitalize on the man advantage.
The Everblades extended the lead to 4-2 moments later as forward David Rutherford beat Fallon through the legs for his fifth goal of the playoffs at the 3:15 mark of the third period.
Less than two minutes later, Florida’s Cedric Lalonde-McNicoll scored an assisted goal from Marquardt and Ryan McGinnis. The Everblades tacked on another goal from Brandon MacLean at the 7:03 mark of the third period to give Florida three goals in just over seven minutes of play.
The Everblades capped the scoring with a Leigh Salters goal with less than two minutes left in regulation.
Salters was the seventh Florida player to score on the evening as he helped the Everblades score seven goals for the third time in their last five games dating back to the Eastern Conference Finals against Kalamazoo.
Stars of the game: 1. David Rutherford (1 goal, 2 assists); 2.Matt Marquardt (1 goal, 2 assists); 3. Cedric Lalonde-McNicoll (1 goal, 2 assists).
Something has to give: While the Everblades are an undefeated 8-0 at home in the playoffs, the Wranglers boast an impressive 7-1 road record in the postseason and are coming off three consecutive road victories at Alaska in the Western Conference Finals.
Next up: The Wranglers return to action against Florida in Game 3 of the Kelly Cup Finals at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Germain Arena in Estero, Fla. Games 4 and 5 will be played next Tuesday and Wednesday at the same venue.
The Orleans Arena, a Boyd Gaming facility located just west of the Las Vegas Strip, is one of the nation’s leading mid-sized arenas, and was recently ranked No. 1 in the United States and No. 5 internationally among venues of similar size by Venues Today Magazine.
The Arena hosts more than 200 events each year, including concerts by top names like Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Van Halen, Brooks & Dunn, Black Eyed Peas, Akon and Rihanna; family favorites like The Harlem Globetrotters and Circus Spectacular; and a wide variety of sporting events, including NCAA basketball tournaments, the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference Basketball Championships, mixed martial arts with Superior Cage Combat, and major motorsports events.
The arena serves as home to the Las Vegas Wranglers professional ECHL hockey team, the Las Vegas Legends professional indoor soccer team, and the Lingerie Football League’s Las Vegas Sin. Stay connected to the Orleans Arena on Facebook (www.facebook.com/orleansarena) and on Twitter (@orleansarena).