Sheffield Steelers 1 Belfast Giants 2: Darryl Lloyd inflicted double trouble on the Sheffield Steelers to keep the Belfast Giants on the tail of the Nottingham Panthers in the pursuit of Elite League title glory.
And the 28-year-old’s two goals in the Giants’ 2-1 victory last night also dealt a big blow to the Steelers hopes of being involved in the race for the crown in the New Year.
Lloyd struck in first period to give the Giants the lead and after Sheffield had levelled in the second period it was Lloyd who scored again early in the third to ultimately win the game.
With Nottingham hammering six goals past Coventry Blaze without reply their four-point lead at the top of the table is maintained, but the Giants have a match in hand.
And with six of the Giants next seven games being on home ice at the Odyssey Arena they will now look to put as much pressure as possible on the Panthers before what is set to be a real blockbuster in Nottingham on Saturday, January 19 — when that run of matches in Belfast comes to an end.
Sheffield are now six points behind the Giants and even though they have a game in hand over the Belfast men and two on Nottingham their chances of regaining the league title that they won in 2011 are beginning to fade.
After having to kill two early penalties, when first Mark Garside and then Adam Keefe were sent to the box, the Giants took the lead at 16:31, with both men involved in setting up the goal.
They made the play for Lloyd to finish for his ninth goal of the season, even though it was originally credited to Garside.
A great chance to double the lead followed immediately after when the Steelers had Chris Frank punished for cross-checking, but Sheffield killed the penalty well and saw out the period trailing by a single goal.
A delayed penalty led to the Steelers levelling matters at 24:37. Defenceman Drew Fata made time and space to feed Simon Ferguson and he skated in of Giants goaltender Stephen Murphy before firing home his first goal for the club.
The Giants chances of victory took a blow when David Phillips was thrown out of the game two minutes later. He was deemed to be guilty of leaving the bench to get involved in an incident that also saw Sheffield’s Tylor Michel and Steven Goertzen sent to the box for roughing.
The understrength Giants regained the lead in the second minute of the third period, Lloyd scoring off another Keefe assist and then it was a case of digging in for the final 18 minutes to ensure that they came away with the points.