Emphatic triumph sees Steelers gain revenge on Giants
Belfast Giants 1 Sheffield Steelers 4
The Belfast Giants suffered their heaviest defeat in 16 games as the Sheffield Steelers gained a small measure of revenge on their Elite League title rivals.
Less than 24 hours after the Giants secured a dramatic 2-1 overtime win on Saturday night, the Steelers were 4-1 winners at the SSE Arena.
With the Cardiff Devils winning on penalties against Braehead Clan their lead at the top is back to four points after the Giants had cut it to three on Saturday.
The Giants made a strong start to the game against the Steelers, helped by having a powerplay after just 34 seconds when Mathieu Roy was sent to the box for a slashing offence.
That, plus a second powerplay opportunity six minutes later, both went begging before the Giants penalty kill was tested on a five-on-three for almost a full minute after Alex Foster followed Ryan Martinelli to the box - both for hooking.
The Giants pressure was rewarded when they went 1-0 bang on a powerplay on the 10-minute mark.
A minute after seeing that off the Giants went on another powerplay and their pressure was rewarded when Higgins, who had scored the overtime winner on Saturday night, struck again.
He was standing on his own at the back door and when Blair Riley found him with a pinpoint pass the finish was straightforward.
But just when it looked like the Giants would take that lead into the first break the game was completely turned on its head.
Giants goaltender Stephen Murphy looked to be unsighted by traffic in front of him when Luke Ferrara fired home the equaliser at 19:20.
If the Giants had held on for 40 seconds things might have been different, but just five seconds before the hooter Yared Hagos set up Ben O'Connor for the goal that gave the Steelers the lead.
Sheffield were buoyed by those two goals and looked a much better team in the second period. It was a surprise that it took them until midway through the period to stretch their lead. Markus Nilsson set up Roy and with no Giants player near him he had time to rifle his shot beyond Murphy and into the net at 30:36.
Giants fans did have something to get off their seats for when captain Adam Keefe stepped in to protect team mate Colin Shields and dropped his gloves with Steelers' Zack Fitzgerald.
It did, however, bring a premature end to Keefe's participation as he was hit with a game misconduct penalty for instigating the fight.
There was still plenty of fight in the Giants though. They threw plenty of rubber at Mustukovs, but he remained solid, just as he had done throughout most of the 120 weekend.
The Giants even pulled Murphy late in the game in an attempt to salvage overtime, but even that didn't work with Colt Fretter striking an empty-net goal 71 seconds from the end to wrap up the win.