BOISE - Returning to their home ice in desperate need of a win, the Idaho Steelheads beat the Las Vegas Wranglers 4-3 on Thursday to avoid falling in a 3-0 deficit in the semi-finals of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Tied at three late in the third, Chad Nehring provided the difference maker on offense, while goaltender Jerry Kuhn made several critical stops on defense to preserve the Steelheads first win of the best-of-seven series.
Idaho netted the only goal of the first period on a power play when Aaron Lewicki finished a nice passing sequence started by Derek LeBlanc and Jacob Cepis. The goal was Lewicki's fourth of the playoffs as Cepis also extended his postseason point streak to a career-best seven games on the play.
The lead grew to two at 10:01 of the second period when Joe Pereira scored on a scramble in front of the net. His third of the playoffs, which was assisted by Ron Meyers and Steven Tarasuk, gave Idaho a 2-0 lead.
But Las Vegas wouldn't go quietly. After tying the game at two in the second, the Wranglers would take an early lead in the third on a broken play. On a scramble in front of the net, Wrangler defenseman Jeff May got his blade on the puck and floated it into the net, giving Las Vegas a 3-2 lead at 5:16 of the third.
The Steelheads would answer quickly though. Cody Purves' putback on Chad Nehring's miss tied it at three and two minutes later they would get on the board again.
With Nehring and Ian Lowe each going after a loose puck in front of the net, both took swings at it before the goal light came on. Referee Frederic LeBlanc signaled nothing as the Steelheads celebrated. LeBlanc conferred with his linesman and the goal judge behind the net who turned the light on before signaling the play as a goal, credited to Nehring, giving Idaho a 4-3 lead at the 8:09 mark of the third.
Idaho - who still trails in the series 2-1 - will host Game 4 Saturday night at CenturyLink Arena at 7:10 PM.
NOTES: Five of Idaho's eight playoff games have been decided by one goal ... During the regular season the 41 of the team's 72 contests end with a one-goal difference ... Jerry Kuhn had 34 saves for Idaho ... Each team scored on the power play - Idaho was 2-4 with the man advantage and Las Vegas was 1-2.