Belfast Giants comeback seals victory
Belfast Giants 4 Braehead Clan 3 (after overtime): The Belfast Giants copied Manchester United as they pulled off an amazing comeback to beat the Braehead Clan and keep the pressure on the Nottingham Panthers at the top of the Elite League.
Just like the Old Trafford men did against Newcastle United on Boxing Day, the Giants fell behind three times against their Scottish opponents and three times they came back, before Greg Stewart won the game in overtime.
With Nottingham to Sheffield 24 hours after they had won in the first of their post-festive double-header it means the Giants are six points behind, but with two games in hand.
“It’s the sign of a good team when you don’t play well but still get the result,” said Giants coach Doug Christiansen.
“There is a thin edge between winning and losing and thankfully we ended up on the right side of that.”
The game was just five minutes old when Braehead grabbed the lead. Matt Haywood skating onto Steve Birnstill's pass before shooting past Stephen Murphy.
It took the Giants almost 10 minutes to get back on level terms in a tight game. Robby Sandrock and Daymen Rycroft combining to supply Greg Stewart with the ammunition he needed to fire home his eighth goal of the season.
A penalty awarded against Brock Mathieson in the final seconds of the first period put Braehead on the powerplay at the start of the second and they took advantage within just 21 seconds, with Drew Miller scoring.
The response was a bit quicker from the Giants this time as they made it 2-2 at 26:01. Noah Clarke and Jeff Mason made the chance and recent signing Kevin Saurette scored his first goal for the team.
When Sam Roberts was punished for interference at 31:23 Braehead made the most of their second powerplay opportunity of
the game to restore their lead. Roberts could hardly have got comfortable in his seat before Davide Nicoletti beat Murphy 20 seconds after play restarted.
That meant the Giants had to dig deep again and that's just what they did — although Braehead did contribute to their own downfall.
Haywood was sent to the penalty box at 32:41 and just over a minute later Craig Peacock pulled the puck back to Sandrock and he fired home a trademark long-range effort to level matters for the third time.
That set up a thrilling third period and both teams went all out for victory. The Giants had a great chance to take the lead for the first time Clarke skated down the left and almost picked out Saurette waiting beside the goal, only for the puck to slide between his skates.
Braehead then thought they had got a winner, but while Nicoletti ended up in the net, he wasn't joined by the puck.
That meant an extra five minutes of sudden death action and the Giants pulled off the unlikely win 2:23 into the added time in controversial circumstances.
Stewart got the end of his stick on a shot from near the boards on the right, the puck hit the crossbar and bounced down. The light went on to signal the goal, but Clan goaltender Garrett Zemlak was enraged, believing the puck hadn't crossed the line — reacting by banging his stick off the boards.
The entire Giants squad jumped off the bench to congratulate the goalscorer and no wonder after such a dramatic ending to a wonderful game.