WEST VALLEY CITY — The Utah Grizzlies' first-round series isn't over. In almost every way, though, it certainly felt that way on Tuesday night.
After a second straight setback in as many nights to the Las Vegas Wranglers — this one a disheartening 3-2 defeat at the Maverik Center in which the Grizzlies controlled play from start to finish, yet still managed to lose — Utah finds itself down two games to zero in the best-of-five matchup.
And the task is daunting: Win three straight games on the Wranglers' ice beginning with Game 3 on Thursday.
Following a lifeless effort on Monday night in which the only Utah highlight was the play of goalie Andrew Engelage (26 saves), the Grizzlies came out with intensity and feistiness on Tuesday.
But a combination of a series of rather questionable no-calls and some untimely Las Vegas goals proved to be too much for the Grizzlies to overcome.
During a first period that featured 19 Utah shots on goal — they had only 21 for the entire game the night before — came a couple of damaging no-calls.
One of those came 31/2 minutes in when Utah's Evan Stephens was clearly tripped at his own blue line. The no-call resulted in a turnover and an ensuing easy score for the Wranglers' Judd Blackwater.
"That was a blatant trip," Grizzlies head coach Kevin Colley said.. "It's unacceptable; it's a disgrace, especially at this time of the season."
Another trip that wasn't called on Las Vegas at 15:45 was initially magnified, when on the resulting power play the referee signaled a Las Vegas goal 30 seconds later.
The referee — who appeared to react to Wranglers players raising their arms in celebration — pointed at the net to signify the goal, even though the goal judge never switched on the red light.
After much consultation with his fellow officials and the goal judge, the referee made a ruling of no goal. But even though the Grizzlies dodged that bullet, the relief was short-lived, as twenty-four seconds later Chris Francis buried the puck in the net to give Las Vegas a 2-1 lead.
"It's tough," a frustrated Colley said after the seemingly harmless shot took a strange turn that allowed the puck to slip by Engelage. "It's a game of bounces."
Michael Busto added the Wranglers' third score at 3:14 of the second period, but Utah didn't throw in the towel. The Grizzlies continued to force the issue, playing desperate.
That effort turned into several good chances that produced 20 shots on goal in the final period — compared to three for the Wranglers — and finally paid off at 12:48 of the third period.
That's when Josh Burrows slapped in a shot from just in front of the blue line, pulling the Grizzlies to within one goal.
But despite pushing hard to the end and pulling Engelage with 1:31 left to play to gain a one man-advantage that led to a flurry of action, Utah couldn't put in the equalizing goal.
The Grizzlies finished with 48 shots on goal, of which Las Vegas goalie Mitch O'Keefe stopped 46. The Wranglers ended with 32 shots on goal (Engelage recorded 29 saves).
During the two games, the Las Vegas duo of Eric Lampe and Adam Miller made things tough for the home team. Lampe tallied two goals and three assists, while Miller recorded three assists.
Facing a tough trio of games on the road, Colley is confident of his team's attitude.
"We're not going to quit," he said. "We know we're going to have to beat a good club, and beat the officiating."