Overtime can be awesome or agonizing, depending on your loyalties.
Mark it down tonight as the former for the Las Vegas Wranglers and their fans, and the latter for the Alaska Aces and their supporters.
Las Vegas 3, Alaska 2.
And now the Wranglers own a 2-1 edge in the best-of-7 series that continues Tuesday night with Game 4 at Sullivan Arena. Game 5 is Wednesday night at Sullivan, where there was an announced crowd of 4,899 tonight.
Here's how tight a match-up it has been. The Aces went down to Las Vegas and won Game 1 on the road, 2-1. And now the Wranglers have traveled north and won their road opener in the series. With Las Vegas' win in Game 3 tonight, it has grabbed the momentum.
Eric Lampe scored the winner 3:11 into extra time. No surprise there. He was the league's leading sniper in the regular season. Tonight, stationed off the right post, he cashed in on a Barry Goers rebound and flicked it past Gerald Coleman -- fortuitous bounce, Lampe said, and he was in the right place at the right time. Truthfully, took a period or more for the Aces to get untracked, and Coleman (31 saves) held them in position. Too many outstanding saves to mention this late, but his straight-up rob job on former Seawolves winger Josh Lunden with the score tied 2-2 in the third period was phenomenal. Coleman reached back with his stick and got the paddle down on the ice to deny Lunden.
And Vegas goalie Joe Fallon has permitted just four goals in the series. He somehow tracked Garry Nunn's long rebound shot through traffic two minutes into OT. And, yeah, he got some luck -- it's always good to be lucky -- with 9.5 seconds left in regulation when he was sprawled on his left side and Aces defenseman Steve Ward had the puck at the bottom of right circle. But, with his stick extended, Ward couldn't get enough leverage to lift the puck over Fallon and slid it into the goalie's armpit for a whistle.
Needless to say, the Aces' loss makes Game 4 Tuesday something of a must-win situation for the defending Kelly Cup champions, who got a power-play goal from defenseman Kane Lafranchise and a third-period goal from reigning Kelly Cup Most Valuable Player Scott Howes -- he fended off Scott Campbell in the slot and slipped a shot inside the left post in a move that reminded The Blog of his killer performance last spring. Howes' goal forged a 2-2 tie.
The Wranglers are hard to contain -- excellent team speed, highly skilled. Campbell didn't score tonight, but, man, he's danger. And Fallon isn't giving up anything remotely easy.
Aces winger Wes Goldie figures his club needs to do a better job of getting the puck to the net and crashing in for gritty goals.
Aces coach Rob Murray juggled all three lines tonight: Ryan Cruthers centered Howes and Goldie, Nick Mazzolini moved from wing back to center to play between Dan Kissel and Nunn, and captain Brian Swanson centered rookies Tim Hall and Jordan Kremyr. Chris Langkow became the 10th forward. Hall replaced Zach Harrison in the lineup and rookie defenseman Brock Shelgren (assist) stepped in for the injured David Shields (lower-body injury). Defenseman Brandon Gentile (upper-body injury) missed his fourth straight game.
After playing three games in four nights in two different states and time zones, and traveling from Vegas to Anchorage on Saturday, the teams have Monday as an actual practice day.
That's all for tonight. We'll check in Monday.