By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Much like a pair of heavyweight boxers, the Condors and Wranglers went toe-to-toe Wednesday night at Rabobank Arena.
They traded blows, or rather goals, in flurries in the first two periods before Bruce Graham finally delivered the knockout punch in overtime.
Graham corralled a rebound in the right circle on a power play and lifted a backhander over Las Vegas goaltender John DeCaro with 4:34 remaining in overtime to give the Condors a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series.
The next two games are on home ice Friday and Saturday nights.
“I got the puck, took a peek and saw the goalie was down and tried to get it over him,” said Graham, who did just that.
The Condors, who twice came back from two-goal deficits, nearly won the game in regulation before a crowd of 4,544 but DeCaro stopped a redirection by Dave Bonk with five seconds remaining.
Bonk had a Condors’ playoff record four goals to lead the comeback.
“It’s a huge win, we just battled … it’s unreal,” Bonk said.
Neither team scored in the third period but the Condors dominated the period and had a golden opportunity to get the go-ahead goal with eight minutes remaining when they went on a two-man power-play advantage for 1:07 but managed just one shot.
The Wranglers came within mere inches of winning twice in overtime as they rang two shots off the crossbar.
Yutaka Fukufuji stopped 47 shots, for his 17th win in his last 21 games. DeCaro stopped 49 shots for Las Vegas.
“It was a wild game, certainly not a coach’s dream,” said Condors coach Marty Raymond. “There were lots of odd-man rushes for both teams.
“This shows that we’re never dead. No matter what happens we have the ability to rally. But we haven’t won anything yet. It’s 2-1 and Las Vegas is a good club and they’re going to be ready. They will come back with a vengeance.”
Trailing 4-2, the Condors clawed their way back into the game in the second period.
Bakersfield had the crowd roaring at 13:01 when Bonk deflected a writer by Ryan Mahrle for goal No. 4 and a 5-4 lead at 13:01.
But back-to-back Bakersfield penalties gave Las Vegas a two-man power-play advantage and it took just 12 seconds for defenseman Dan Spang, just down from the American Hockey League, to blast in a one-timer to for a 5-5 tie at the 13:59 mark.
Bonk scored his first goal at 14:39 and got goal No. 2 on a power play at 17:35 to tie the game.