Giants get swift a chance of revenge for fiery loss
Belfast Giants 2-6 Sheffield Steelers
The Belfast Giants and Sheffield Steelers are set for a stormy rematch tonight after the visitors won a tinderbox encounter in the first leg of their weekend double-header at the SSE Arena.
Eight goals - six of them to the Steelers - two big fights and a couple more flare ups meant that the game was on edge for most of the night and there is every chance of a repeat this evening.
The raw facts for the Giants, however, are that the Steelers are now above them in second place in the Elite League standings by one point and they now have only two games in hand in which to close a three-point gap to Cardiff at the top.
The Giants had already been dealt a big blow before the game when injury ruled out the in-form Mike Radja, who had scored five goals in the previous three games.
Despite his absence, it was the Giants who made the better start to the game. Sheffield goaltender Marek Pinc had already made a big save before Mike Forney just failed to collect a pass from James Desmarais that would have put him in a great position.
The Giants were left to rue those missed opportunities when Sheffield took the lead at 4:47.
Jeff Legue's shot was stopped by Stephen Murphy, but the rebound wasn't cleared and Mathieu Roy poked the loose puck into the net.
Within a minute the Giants were on the powerplay, but the recently hot unit couldn't deliver this time.
A penalty against Mike Wilson gave the Steelers a powerplay of their own, from which they scored, before taking control of the tie with three goals in less than three minutes virtually winning them the game with only 12:47 on the clock.
Tyler Mosienko skated through and beat Murphy over his shoulder at 10:05 and a minute later he struck again, pouncing to score after the Giants goaltender had made the first save.
There was no respite for the Giants as the Steelers kept pouring forward and their third goal came at 12:47, when Legue scored on a breakaway.
With his team in disarray, Giants player-coach Derrick Walser took the unusual step of calling his time-out in the first period and he was relieved to see the period end with no further goals.
With a comfortable lead to sit on, there was less intensity from Sheffield in the second period as they soaked up the pressure from the Giants before striking again at 27:02.
A shot came in from distance and when Murphy couldn't hold the puck, Roy said thank you very much and tucked in his second of the game.
Despite being 5-0 down the Giants weren't about to go down without a fight - literally.
Craig Peacock tried to put some respectability on the scoreline when he scored from Forney's pass at 34:01 before things began to get a bit fraught.
Desmarais and Sheffield's Levi Nelson had a go at each other, earning a two-minute stint in the penalty box, but that was mild compared to what was to come.
Kris Beech and Cullen Eddy joined them after they had a set-to in front of the Steelers net.
Andrew Dickson replaced Murphy for the third period, which was quiet until a string of nasty events, with a couple of goals sprinkled in.
Sheffield's Guillaume Desbiens earned himself a lengthy sit down in the penalty box when he sparked a fight with Mitch Ganzak and when all that was sorted out Chris Higgins pulled one back for the Giants at 52:21 when he deflected Walser's shot home.
That was Higgins' last act as he got involved with the Sheffield bench and was thrown out of the game, leaving the Giants bench in a rage.
With his five-minute penalty still being served, Sheffield made it 6-2 at 57:19 when Ben O'Connor produced a great finish.
There was still time for Adam Keefe and Zak Fitzgerald to throw off the gloves and with two minutes left all 10 skaters clashed in a melee, with Peacock and Conny Stromberg pulled out and sent to the box.