Giants are hit by Devil of a title blow
Belfast Giants 3 Cardiff Devils 4
A stunning third-period comeback from the Cardiff Devils has put a major dent in the Belfast Giants' Elite League title challenge.
Leading 3-0 with 17 minutes to go after debutant Jerome Leduc scored twice having only arrived in Belfast 24 hours before the game, the Giants let the game slip from their grasp as Cardiff struck four times in 15 minutes to win the game and open up a five-point lead at the top of the table.
The Giants have a chance to close that to three when the top two do battle at the SSE Arena again tonight, but the Devils still have a match in hand and they are now strong favourites to win the title.
The early stages saw the Giants create the better chances and they grabbed the initiative at 13:29 when Mark Garside and David Rutherford set up Leduc and he cracked home a fine shot to mark his first game in real style.
It looked like the first period would end with the Giants 1-0 up before Mike Forney doubled the lead. Blair Riley linked with Chris Higgins to create the opening and Forney finished low into the bottom corner of Ben Bowns' net.
Leduc's debut got even better midway through the second period after the Giants were awarded a powerplay. Josh Batch was deemed guilty of interference and with the numerical advantage Forney and Jim Vandermeer worked the opening before Leduc provided the finish.
There was no sign of what was to come as the teams went off for the second break, but Cardiff were a different team in the final 20 minutes.
Defenceman Mark Richardson sparked the comeback when he skated forward and collected Joey Haddad's pass before finishing at 43:16.
There was a large degree of good fortune about Cardiff's second goal. Sean Bentivoglio's attempted pass from behind the goal went into the net off Derrick Walser at 52:17.
Cardiff sensed they could resuce the game and drew level through Haddad with just over four minutes to go.
That was the signal for an onslaught and they grabbed the winner in dramatic fashion when Patrick Asselin finished at 57:46.
The Giants pulled goaltender Stephen Murphy a minute later, but even with the extra skater they weren't able to rescue a point.