LAS VEGAS For the 11th straight time this season, the Utah Grizzlies could not beat National Conference regular-season-champion Las Vegas as the Wranglers made good use of uneven situations Monday, scoring two power-play goals and two short-handed goals to take Game 1 of the conference finals series in the 2008 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs.
It's the first time in these playoffs that Utah lost a Game 1 in a series. They had won opening games in their last two series, going on to defeat higher-seeded Fresno and Victoria, but they never led Monday night and fell 5-2.
The two teams play again tonight at 8 MDT at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
For the second time in the game, Utah had come back from a two-goal deficit early in the third period when Micheal Haley scored at 2:17 from Rob Sirianni and Sean Offers to give the Grizzlies a chance, down 3-2.
But at 14:29, Offers was called for high sticking, and just 20 seconds into the power play, Jason Jozsa scored to make it a two-goal again.
Utah got a power play chance at 18:53 and pulled goalie Mike Mole for a 6-on-4 attack, but Tyler Mosienko scored short-handed into Utah's empty net at 19:42.
Adam Cracknell scored with the extra man at 5:33 of the first period after Utah committed goaltender interference, and at 16:48 of the first, Curt Fraser put in his sixth playoff goal short-handed.
Utah's Tyler Haskins halved the lead with his fifth playoff goal at 7:40 of the second from Ryan Kinasewich. Vegas got its only even-strength goal of the game 11 minutes later when Shawn Limpright scored a backhander on a 2-on-1 rush. Haley's fifth playoff goal at 2:17 again trimmed the lead to just one goal before Las Vegas got the two uneven-strength goals to settle things.
Utah outshot the Wranglers 33-32.
Utah at Las Vegas Las Vegas 5, Utah 2
Utah at Las Vegas Tuesday, 8 p.m.
Las Vegas at Utah Thursday, 7 p.m.
Las Vegas at Utah Friday, 7 p.m.
Las Vegas at Utah Sunday, May 18, 4 p.m. (Game 5 if necessary)
Utah at Las Vegas Tuesday, May 20, 8 p.m. (Game 6 if necessary)
Utah at Las Vegas Wednesday, May 21, 8 p.m. (Game 7 if necessary)/