WEST VALLEY CITY At least this time the Las Vegas Wranglers, leaders of the National Conference of the ECHL, knew they were in a game.
After a woeful performance Wednesday in the first of three straight in the E Center against the Wranglers, the Utah Grizzlies put up a snarling fight Friday night before finally going down 4-3 in an overtime shootout to the No. 2 club in the 25-team league.
"You don't like losing games, especially in a shootout it even hurts worse," said Utah coach Jason Christie, who was nevertheless feeling much better than he had after Wednesday's lackluster effort.
"It was a much different team tonight," Christie said. "The guys battled hard."
The same two teams meet for the third time this week in the E Center tonight at 7, and Utah's 10-game homestand concludes Tuesday and Wednesday against Fresno.
Utah fell to 11-10-0-3, while Vegas is 18-2-0-2.
The Grizzlies had lost three players to callups to AHL Bridgeport Friday morning and received one back, but he wasn't here in time to play.
So Christie activated forward Rob Sirianni, defender Martin Frechette and defender James Sanford from the injured reserve list to fill in.
The callups of forwards Tyler Haskins and Olivier Labelle and defenseman Scott Ford may have hurt in the shootout. But the replacements surely gave a good account of themselves in the end-to-end game.
Utah didn't get a goal in the shootout, while Ryan Donnally and Aki Seitsonen goaled for Las Vegas. Donnally also had a goal in the second period.
Sanford had been out more than a month following a suspension in Boise for an off-ice incident, but he came back with vengeance, helping the Grizzlies put in a far more energetic effort than they had in Wednesday's 6-2-and-worse-than-that fall.
"This is his first game back in a month," Christie said of Sanford. "We're excited to have him back, and I thought he contributed big-time tonight on our back end and power play. He was making plays on there (power play).
"But a lot of guys really stepped up the to plate tonight They worked their tails off."
Utah never led, but it came back to tie every time Vegas would pull ahead, even in the third period when the Wranglers struck what might have been a killing blow, scoring on a goofy floating shot directly off a face-off just after Utah had killed a 5-on-3 power play.
"We killed off a huge 5-on-3," Christie said.
Normally that energizes the defensive team, and normally a strange goal right afterward would deflate the defenders, but the Grizzlies' Andy Sertich scored just 44 seconds later on a pass off the boards from Justin Bourne to tie it up and eventually force the overtime and the shootout.
Las Vegas scored on two of its three power plays through the first two periods, but Utah kept pace with a goal out of a scramble at 5:28 of the second by Trevor Smith to make it 1-1 and a power-play tip-in by Bourne from a Sanford slap shot from straight up the slot at 18:44 of the second.
Utah, outshot by two on Wednesday by the Wranglers, had a 34-16 advantage in shots through the first two periods Friday, thanks to a 20-9 second period, and wound up outshooting them 45-35The Grizzlies ended the third period and started the overtime on a power play but couldn't pull ahead.