Massive cup challenge for Giants after loss to Devils
Cardiff Devils 5-3 Belfast Giants
Three third-period goals from the Cardiff Devils have left the Belfast Giants with a major task on their hands if they are to reach the final of the Challenge Cup.
A 5-3 defeat in the Welsh capital means that unless the Giants can score at least two goals in the return leg on Tuesday, February 23 they will bow out of the competition.
In a game that was played on the edge throughout the 60 minutes - with things boiling over a couple of times - the teams had been neck-and-neck before three goals in just over six minutes saw the Devils take control.
Trevor Hendrikx put the Devils in front at 8:08 with just his second goal of the season, before James Desmarais levelled the scores five minutes later.
The Devils were quick off the mark in the second period as Ryan Russell restored the lead at 22:06.
There was a brawl involving most of the players 11 minutes into the second period, with the Giants Mitch Ganzak and Devils pair Hendrikx and Luke Piggott going to the box when it was sorted out.
The Giants equalised again through David Rutherford at 34:37, but Cardiff got to work in the third period, with Guillaume Doucet netting just 20 seconds in and Leigh Salters put them in control at 52:49.
Kris Beech pulled one back for the Giants at 54:24, but the Devils take a two-goal first-leg lead thanks to Joey Haddad's short-handed goal at 56:46.