Giants turn up heat on Devils for slender lead in semi
Cardiff Devils 4 Belfast Giants 5
The Belfast Giants staged a dramatic third-period comeback before scoring a last minute winner that means they take what could be a crucial one-goal advantage into next Wednesday's Challenge Cup semi-final second leg.
Trailing 4-2 with 16 minutes to go, the Giants levelled before piling the pressure on the Devils late in the game and getting the goal that puts them ahead in the tie with just 56 seconds to go.
The wonderful finish to the game in Cardiff was in contrast to how it had started for the Giants.
Player-coach Derrick Walser was hit with a 10-minute misconduct penalty before the game had even started, apparently for skating around while the anthems were playing pre-match.
Walser more or less swapped places with Jim Vandermeer, took a slashing penalty and it was on that powerplay that Cardiff opened the scoring.
With the numerical advantage Cardiff crashed the Giants net and Layne Ulmer got the final touch to force the puck over the line at 10:43.
Cardiff stretched their lead at 15:25 when Gleason Fournier finished superbly after good work from Joey Haddad and Patrick Asselin.
The Giants then went on the powerplay after a tussle resulted in Giants' Blair Riley and Cardiff pair Matthew Myers and Mark Louis being sent to the box and that helped get them back into the game. Colin Shields got the goal at 17:24, just 18 seconds into the powerplay, after being set up by Walser.
Cardiff restored their two-goal advantage at 32:17 when Guillaume Doucet finished.
The Giants responded within two minutes, Chris Higgins pouncing.
Then Cardiff made it 4-2, but it wasn't without controversy.
Officially Joey Martin's goal was timed at 39:59 - a second before the end of the second period - but the Giants players protested that the hooter had sounded before the puck had gone into the net. Protests which fell on deaf ears.
The Giants levelled the scores with two goals inside two minutes early in the third period.
Walser and Matt Towe set up Shields for his second goal of the game at 44:36.
And they were level at 46:31 when Brandon Benedict netted.
Both teams hit the pipes before the Giants got the go-ahead goal when Vandermeer struck on the powerplay.