West Valley City • Fans of rough-and-tumble hockey were in for a treat Saturday as Utah and Las Vegas hooked up for the fourth time in eight nights.
Needless to say, there was lingering angst from the previous three games, two of which were won by the Wranglers. It took an entire period for the two teams to settle down somewhat, but the game remained physical.
In the end, Las Vegas scored three times in the third period, including an empty-netter, to overcome a two-goal deficit and emerge with a bruising 5-2 ECHL victory in the Maverik Center.
Still, Utah coach Kevin Colley saw some bright moments, coming on the heels of a 5-1 defeat Friday.
"I thought we competed and we battled," he said. "It was a lot better than last night. We had great opportunities in the first 40 minutes and a few in the third."
Carlo Finucci scored his second goal of the night to give the Wranglers (17-15-1-3) their first lead at 4:13 of the third period. Scott Pitt blasted the go-ahead score seconds later.
The game's tone was set early. Two seconds into the first period, Grizzly forward Mike Adamek and Las Vegas center Judd Blackwater began throwing punches. The skirmish lasted just long enough for Adamek to load up a right uppercut.
Another scrum formed less than a minute later. In all, 15 penalties were whistled in a scoreless, static first period. In all, the teams were called for a combined 28 penalties and 72 penalty minutes.
"They're more prima donnas, to be honest with you," Colley said of Las Vegas. "They're not known for being too tough. They don't play the game with integrity the way they flop around the ice. The professionalism of that program isn't the greatest."
Utah (finally broke through late in the first period. Tyler Maxwell, skating behind the net, emerged with Riley Armstrong camped out in the crease. The pass was on target, as was the shot.
Mark Isherwood gave the Grizzlies a two-goal lead barely a minute into the second period, only to see Las Vegas pull it back to one goal less than a minute later. The Wranglers eventually tied the score with four minutes to play in the period.
Wranglers 5, Grizzlies 2
R Las Vegas scores three goals in the final period, including an empty-net goal in the final minute.
• Utah takes a 2-0 lead early in the second period, only to see Las Vegas tie the game.