Giants' title bid hots up with win at Blaze thanks to Murphy's heroics
Coventry Blaze 0 Belfast Giants 3
Stephen Murphy fully justified Derrick Walser's decision to rest him for Saturday night's clash with the Nottingham Panthers by shutting out Coventry Blaze and helping the Belfast Giants record a fifth successive Elite League win.
Walser came in for criticism for not pulling Jackson Whistle out of the 7-4 win over the Panthers after a flurry of early goals.
His explanation was that he wanted Murphy fresh for the next run of games and the Scotsman's performance, as he kept out all 27 of Coventry's efforts on goal, fully backed up his coach's call.
A double strike from Chris Higgins either side of a goal from Steve Saviano then secured the win for the Giants that sees them cut the Cardiff Devils' lead at the top to eight points after they lost 5-2 to the Nottingham Panthers - their second defeat to the Panthers in just over a week.
The first period in Coventry was more like sparring with neither team being able to land anything like a knock-out blow that would give them the lead.
That was partly down to Murphy and his opposite number Brian Stewart both being in top form.
Although both teams upped the ante after the break that pattern of top-notch goaltending continued for a large portion of the second period before the Giants finally broke the deadlock at 36:16.
Mark Garside moved forward from defence and linked the play between Blair Riley and Higgins, who finally broke Stewart's strong resistance.
That goal put the Giants on the front foot, although they couldn't add a second goal in the remaining four minutes of the second period.
The Giants were the stronger team at the start of the third period and it was no surprise that they scored the next goal.
Jeff Mason and Colin Shields began the move, before Saviano skated through on goal and after faking his shot he sent the puck into the net with a classy finish.
The tight nature of the game meant that there was only one penalty called until six minutes from the end when the Giants went on the powerplay for the first time.
And they took full advantage by scoring the third goal that made sure of the victory.
After moving the puck to stretch the Coventry defence Mike Forney let fly with a shot that Stewart managed to block and Higgins reacted quickest to gratefully knock home the rebound.
Even when the Giants had to kill a penalty in the final minute of the game when Adam Keefe was called for tripping, Murphy still stayed strong to add another shut-out to his record total for the club.