Belfast Giants stride clear at summit
Cardiff Devils 1 Belfast Giants 2: A third win of the season in Cardiff has moved the Belfast Giants two points clear at the top of the Elite League table.
Second period goals from Kevin Saurette and Jeffrey Szwez secured the victory that sees Paul Adey's team put some daylight between themselves and the previous leaders Dundee Stars.
The win wasn't without it's controversy though as the bad blood that existed between the teams last season returned to the surface.
The Giants' opening goal five minutes after the first break came from a penalty shot, but more was to follow.
Giants captain Adam Keefe was chucked out of the game after being deemed guilty of a check to the head on Cardiff's Adam Conboy – the pair had also clashed during a game in Wales on the opening weekend of the season.
Angry at the nature of Keefe's hit on his team-mate, Cardiff defenceman Rupert Quiney jumped from his seat on the bench onto the ice and he too took no further part in the game.
A stretcher was brought onto ice for Conboy, who later returned to the bench.
Keefe has already served a three-match suspension for a similar offence earlier in the season and his latest misdemeanour is almost certain to result in another ban – possibly longer this time – which will put his participation in Sunday's trip to the Sheffield Steelers in doubt.
The Giants had most of the chances in the early stages of the game, with Cardiff goaltender Daniel Lacosta pulling off a string of saves to keep the scoreline blank.
A penalty against Robby Sandrock for tripping was killed by the Giants before they failed to take two powerplay opportunities themselves in quick succession.
Stephen Murphy pulled off a great save to prevent Mac Faulkner from giving Cardiff the lead early in the second period and seconds after another save the Giants were given their opportunity when they were awarded a penalty shot at 24:58.
Saurette took the puck forward from centre ice and finished with aplomb.
The Giants were on the penalty kill when Conboy – who had just put in a couple of big hits himself – was caught by Keefe and Quiney's intervention led to ugly scenes on the ice.
Once calm was restore the Devils were within a whisker of levelling the scores when Chris Blight saw his shot come flying off Murphy's pipes.
That was the signal for Cardiff to go on all-out attack and both Matthew Myers and Andrew Lord came close to breaking Murphy's resolve.
As the intensity level of the game rose Cardiff's Ben Davies was punished for a cross check and in the aftermath his team-mate Josh Batch, as well as Giants pair Darryl Lloyd and David Philips, were all sent to the penalty box for roughing.
Murphy saved another Blight effort as the Devils piled the pressure on and they were made to regret those missed opportunities then the Giants went 2-0 up.
Myers was punished for hooking and with the Giants on a powerplay Dustin Whitecotton took the puck from a face off and supplied the pass for Szwez who netted his eighth goal of the season at 35:29.
Cardiff then threw everything at the Giants in an attempt to turn the game around.
They got back into the game at 49:19 when Lord scored short handed as Davies sat a penalty for a high stick, but the Giants held on to win and strengthen their position at the top.