Matt Nickerson stars as Belfast Giants gain some revenge over Cardiff Devils
Belfast Giants 5-2 Cardiff Devils
The Belfast Giants gained some small measure of revenge over the Cardiff Devils by putting a dent in their Elite League title hopes.
Three days after the Devils ended any hopes the Giants had of winning the league by claiming back-to-back victories in Cardiff, the Belfast men won 5-2 at the SSE Arena to prevent the Welsh side drawing level with leaders Sheffield.
Cardiff must now win both of their final two games this weekend and hope that Sheffield slip up in at least one of theirs to have any chance of winning the league.
Giants player-coach Derrick Walser had warned the Devils that they wouldn't walk away with the two points easily and that is exactly how things turned out.
There was, however, no fight between Giants defenceman Matt Nickerson and Cardiff's Trevor Hendrix - who had already gone toe-to-toe three times this season.
Instead, Nickerson produced a man-of-the-match performance in defence while David Rutherford, Mike Radja, Mike Forney, Mike Wilson and Adam Keefe scored the goals at the other end,
Rutherford struck first at 13:51, finishing off after a shot had come back off the boards.
Joey Martin drew the Devils level at 24:14, but the Giants' lead was quickly restored by Radja just over two minutes later with a powerful shot into the roof of the net.
It was 3-1 to the Giants five minutes later. Wilson's shot from distance was stopped by Cardiff goaltender Ben Bowns and Forney was quickest to react and snap up the rebound.
The Giants' fourth goal - on a powerplay at 53:47 - owed as much to good fortune as anything else.
Wilson sent the puck towards goal and somehow it found its way past Bowns.
Martin reduced the deficit to 4-2 with five minutes to go, but after Bowns was pulled, Keefe settled the game at 57:57.