Belfast Giants 4-3 Nottingham Panthers: Giants on the march
Late winner slams the brakes on Panthers
Kevin Saurette scored a dramatic late winner against the Nottingham Panthers at the Odyssey Arena to send the Belfast Giants 13 points clear at the top of the Elite League table.
The Giants led 3-2 at the end of the second period, through a Craig Peacock double and a strike from Cody Brockwell, with Matt Ryan and David Clarke replaying for the visitors.
Nottingham levelled the scoreline for a second time with less than eight minutes to go through Petr Kalus, but they were on terms for only 84 seconds before Saurette struck the game's winning goal which stretches the Giants' lead at the top.
Second placed Braehead Clan have two matches in hand, but Paul Adey's team are not only building up a lead which will be difficult to overcome, they are also playing with a significant amount of confidence having now won nine games in succession.
The Giants were quickly out of the blocks once again and went 2-0 in front with first-period goals just 31 seconds apart.
Despite having a talented crop of import players, the opening goal, scored at 6:57, was created and scored by the Giants' British contingent.
Mark Garside, returning from a two-week spell out with injury, took the puck, moved it on to Kevin Phillips and he sent it on to Peacock who fired past Neil Conway in the Nottingham goal.
The bumper 4,300 holiday crowd were barely back in their seats after that when the Giants scored again.
This time two defencemen made their mark, Calvin Elfring setting up Brockwell to score at 7:28.
That woke the Panthers and they pulled level before the end of the first period with two goals in three minutes.
Ryan made it 2-1 at 12:53 when he finished off from Chris Murray's assist.
The Panthers goalscorer then clashed with Giants captain Adam Keefe.
Ryan was deemed to have been guilty of a check to the head, with Keefe reacting and both men being hit with a 10-minute misconduct penalty.
While they were off the ice Clarke struck the equaliser after former Giant Brandon Benedict and Joe Grimaldi set up the chance.
The Giants stormed back in the lead five minutes before the end of what was an extremely tight and tense second period.
Jonathan Boxill was sent to the box for hooking and just 20 seconds later Peacock struck on the powerplay for his 12th goal of the season, having only returned to the Odyssey nine games into the season.
Nottingham also capitalised on a powerplay opportunity as Kalus set up a big finish to the contest.
Darryl Lloyd was off the ice after being punished for holding when Matt Francis set up Kalus to score at 52:25.
Referee Mike Hicks then played a part as the Giants hit the winner at 53:49.
With the Giants in possession of the puck he called a delayed penalty against the Panthers and as goaltender Stephen Murphy made his way off the ice to bring an extra skater into play the alert Brockwell combined with Chris Higgins to set up Saurette who supplied the finish, sealing a dramatic victory.