Belfast Giants haunted by home ice woe against Braehead
Belfast Giants 1-4 Braehead Clan
The home ice curse has struck again for the Belfast Giants.
Braehead Clan turned the tables on Derrick Walser's men at the SSE Arena last night, just 48 hours after the Giants had won in overtime in Glasgow.
Clan's 4-1 victory means that the Giants have lost half of their last 12 games in Belfast and those dropped points could prove decisive at the end of the season.
The good news for Walser and his players is that they have another opportunity to eat into the Cardiff Devils' six-point advantage when they host the Dundee Stars tonight.
The bad news is that the Stars won 3-2 in a Challenge Cup game on their last visit to Belfast.
Darryl Lloyd was given the night off for the Giants as Mike Radja returned to the line-up after missing Sunday night's 4-3 overtime win in Glasgow and Colin Shields was also back after an injury lay off.
Back-up goaltender Gary Russell started for the Clan and the Giants tried to test him early on with James Desmarais having an effort saved.
The match sparked into life after six minutes when Giants forward Jonathan Boxill was the victim of a nasty hit by Clan's Chris Bruton.
Giants captain Adam Keefe stepped in immediately to fight Bruton and ended up with a five minute fighting penalty plus two minutes for instigating and a 10 minute misconduct penalty.
After things calmed down, Giants goaltender Stephen Murphy had to come out of his crease to break up a Clan attack, but earned a two-minute tripping penalty for his trouble.
Matt Keith then had a great chance to open the scoring for Clan, but missed the puck altogether when he was all on his own at the far post.
After a quiet first period in terms of goalscoring, the second was entirely different.
Mike Forney had already gone close when Desmarais put the Giants into the lead at 24:04.
Boxill held the puck along the boards and when he dug it out, Desmarais immediately pulled the trigger to fire past Russell.
Matt Nickerson had his shot saved as the Giants pushed for a second goal, but it was Clan who scored next at 30:27.
Marcus Gotz received the puck after some nice play in the Giants zone and Stefan Meyer deflected his shot past an unsighted Murphy.
Chris Higgins then missed a chance to put the Giants back in front before he picked up an injury and left the ice. On his return, Higgins was punished for a hooking offence, giving Clan a powerplay from which they scored their second goal.
Murphy couldn't cover the puck as a shot rebounded and Meyer pounced to score his second of the game at 37:34.
Clan were looking confident and they were 3-1 up just 29 seconds later - although there was a slice of luck attached.
The puck bounced awkwardly in front of Murphy after being sent forward from the Clan defensive zone by Scott Aarssen. Ben Davies latched onto it and sent his shot over the Giants goaltender's hand and into the top corner of the net.
After going from being 1-0 up to 3-1 down in the space of 14 minutes, the Giants were stunned.
They needed a big response if there was to be a fightback, but just three minutes into the new period Mitch Ganzak was in the box, putting the Giants on a penalty kill.
Walser did test Russell with a powerful shot before a Giants powerplay, but Clan made it 4-1 at 53:08 to seal the points when Keith's long range effort beat Murphy down low.
Belfast Giants forward pair Darryl Lloyd and Mike Forney have been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Elite League's Department of Player Safety.
Braehead Clan asked for separate incidents to be reviewed following Sunday night's meeting with the Giants in Glasgow.
The DOPS committee ruled that no further action was required ahead of last night's return meeting.