Loss on penalties is a cruel blow for Belfast Giants
Belfast Giants 4-4 Nottingham Panthers (Nottingham won 4-3 on penalties)
The Belfast Giants suffered penalty shoot-out heartbreak against the Nottingham Panthers as their Elite League title hopes took another blow.
The marathon shoot-out saw 14 shots taken with only half scored and Nottingham's Andy Bohmbach scoring three times to give his side the victory.
The agony of defeat was compounded by the fact that the Giants were never behind during the 60 minutes of regulation time, Mike Radja assisting three goals before scoring the fourth.
Indeed, the Giants were in the driving seat after Colin Shields and James Desmarais gave them a 2-0 lead in the first period.
The Panthers did draw level in the second period through Robert Farmer and Juraj Kolnik, but the Giants were ahead before the break with Mike Wilson scoring.
Kolnik struck again in the third period before Radja put the Giants in front once more, but the Panthers forced overtime when Stephen Schultz struck five minutes from time.
Five minutes of sudden death overtime still couldn't separate the teams and Bohmbach's accuracy in the shoot-out gave the Panthers the extra point.
The Giants had looked good early on, with Desmarais setting up Shields for the opener at 8:18 before adding the second himself after Radja created the chance.
Farmer finished beautifully to get the Panthers back into the game at 26:57 and they were level at 32:11 when Kolnik forced the puck home after a scramble in front of the Giants net. Wilson restored the Giants' lead on the powerplay at 36:05.
In a thrilling third period Kolnik equalised again at 51:40 before Radja put the Giants in front again a minute later. Schultz's leveller led to the shoot-out and only him and Bohmbach netted for the Panthers while David Rutherford, Radja and Shields scored for the Giants.