J.P. Hoornstra, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/The Sun
LAS VEGAS - Pressure can be a funny thing.
Facing no pressure for the first time all season - regardless of where the Reign spent their Saturday night in Las Vegas, their season was over - they beat the Wranglers a day after being eliminated from the playoffs.
It took 14 head-to-head meetings but the Reign finally got the best of Las Vegas in 60 minutes, a 7-1 shellacking that came a couple days too late.
"We knew we had nothing to lose, but we still wanted to finish the year with some pride," said Colten Teubert, who scored his first professional goal to open the scoring. "Especially for all our fans that came out, it's awesome. We wanted to show how much we care about them and just get the win."
Geoff Walker, Greg Hogeboom, Mike Egener, C.J. Stretch, Jordan Nolan and Chad Starling also scored goals before 5,394 at Orleans Arena. Goaltender Mike Zacharias, making his first start of the series, came eight minutes away from a shutout and finished with 27 saves.
The Reign played loose and were helped by the fact that their opponent's playoff fate was already sealed; the Wranglers will face Utah in the first round in the coming days.
It only took one period for the Reign to establish themselves as the better team on this night, breaking out to a 3-0 lead on a trio of first-period goals.
Standing in the slot, Teubert took a pass from behind the net by Chris Curran and fired past Joel Gistedt at 6:59 of the first period to open the scoring. It wasn't pretty - the puck bounced off the inside of the post and off the goalie's back - but the goal came as a relief for the Kings' first-round pick of the 2008 draft.
"It's been a while," Teubert said. "I played all last year and didn't get one. It is a little too late, but it was nice to get rid of that goose egg."
Geoff Walker and Greg Hogeboom also scored in the first period; Hogeboom extended his team record to 32 goals on the season. Mike Egener made it 4-0 with a power-play goal in the seconds period. His 11th goal of the season, a long blast from the point, was the most of any Reign defenseman.
All three players who began the season in the junior leagues scored, as Stretch and Nolan padded the blowout margin in the third period.
Stretch, an Irvine native with family and friends watching on, had been gunning for his first goal from the drop of the puck. But not until he finished a 2-on-1 rush at 10:51 of the third period did he finally break through.
"I came into the game wanting to play the same game as my junior game - not to get nervous, play my game and stay confident," he said. "My first couple shifts I had a few chances, so I knew that if I just kept working hard I might get that goal or create some stuff."
Nolan, playing his most relaxed game of the three-game series, created his own chance by forcing a turnover in the defensive, then skating the length of the ice and finishing on the backhand.
"I don't get those too often," said Nolan, a seventh-round draft pick by the Kings last year.