Picking up a point on the road is usually a rink reward, but the Alaska Aces' 5-4 shootout loss at Las Vegas on Friday night proved painful pucks.
The Aces never trailed until the Wranglers won the skills competition, 2-1, when Las Vegas goaltender Joe Fallon was not dented by Alaska's fifth shooter, Alex Hudson.
Alaska surrendered an extra-attacker goal to Eric Lampe, the league's reigning goal-scoring champion, with 44 seconds remaining in regulation at Orleans Arena, where the clubs wrap up a two-game set Saturday night.
The Aces no longer lead the ECHL, either. Ontario's 6-5 shootout win over visiting Utah gives the Reign 69 points, one ahead of the Aces (32-11-4) and two ahead of Reading.
Alaska, leading 4-3 late in regulation, was unable to score on a two-man advantage that lasted more than one minute. That made Lampe's extra-attacker goal a dagger that went even deeper.
Chris Francis and Andrew Sarauer scored in the first two rounds of the shootout for Las Vegas, and Bobby Hughes, Alaska's first of five shooters, was the only one to pierce Fallon.
Fallon and Alaska's Gerald Coleman each made 32 saves in regulation and overtime.
The Aces are 3-3 in shootouts this season and the Wranglers improved to 5-3 in shootouts.
Aces leading scorer Nick Mazzolini continued to torment the Wranglers. Back in the lineup after missing two games with an upper-body injury, Mazzolini delivered his third two-goal game in five games in Sin City this season. He has seven goals in those five games.
Two goals from Mazzolini and one from Hughes countered the first-period strike by Francis to give the Aces a 3-1 lead early in the second period. Then former UAA winger Sean Wiles and former Aces forward Judd Blackwater scored six minutes apart for a 3-3 deadlock.
Shawn Skelly's power-play strike furnished the Aces a 4-3 lead late in the second period and that held into intermission.
But for the second straight game, the Aces were unable to hold a one-goal lead after two periods.
Besides Mazzolini, the Aces also welcomed back defenseman Kane Lafranchise, who missed 12 of the club's games while on an extended loan to Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League. Lafranchise had two assists, but was also minus-2.
Forward Spencer Bennett, acquired from Orlando earlier in the week, made his Aces debut and generated an assist, but failed to score in the shootout.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Las Vegas wins shootout 2-1
Aces 2 2 0 0 -- 4
Las Vegas 1 2 1 1 -- 5
First Period -- 1, Aces, Mazzolini 25 (Curry), 6:49; 2, Las Vegas, Francis 16, 14:02; 3, Aces, Hughes 7 (Skelly, Bennett), 15:16. Penalties -- Curry, Aces (cross-checking), 3:52; Wiles, Las Vegas (slashing), 10:55; Fritsch, Las Vegas (roughing), 15:49; Smith, Las Vegas (tripping), 19:05.
Second Period -- 4, Aces, Mazzolini 26 (Wrenn, Lafranchise), 1:08; 5, Las Vegas, Wiles 12 (Pitt, Cook), 7:34; 6, Las Vegas, Blackwater 10 (Francis, Lampe), 13:22; 7, Aces, Skelly 3 (Hughes, Lafranchise), 17:57 (pp). Penalties -- Clackson, Aces (hooking), 3:18; Clackson, Aces (tripping), 10:33; Fritsch, Las Vegas (slashing), 15:53; Boe, Las Vegas (interference), 16:48.
Third Period -- 8, Las Vegas, Lampe 16 (Julseth-Smith, Sarauer), 19;16. Penalties -- Ward, Aces (delay of game), 7:36; Lampe, Las Vegas (goaltender interference), 14:27; Las Vegas bench minor, served by Francis (too many men), 15:17.
Overtime -- None. Penalties -- None.
Shootout -- Las Vegas 2 (Francis G, Sarauer G, Blackwater NG, Lampe NG), Aces 1 (Hughes G, Mazzolini NG, Skelly NG, Bennett NG, Hudson, NG).
Shots on goal -- Aces 9-18-8-1--36. Las Vegas 4-13-14-5--36.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 1 of 7. Las Vegas 0 of 4.
Goalies -- Aces, Coleman, 15-4-1 (36 shots-32 saves). Las Vegas, Fallon, 14-12-5 (36-32).
A -- 5,371 (7,773). T -- 2:37.
Referee -- Andy Thackaberry. Linesmen -- Wally Lacroix, Brett Martin.