Nottingham Panthers carve up helpless Belfast Giants
Nottingham Panthers 8 Belfast Giants 3: The Belfast Giants suffered their heaviest defeat of the season as they were steamrollered by defending league champions Nottingham.
The 8-3 loss to the Panthers is the biggest reverse the Giants have experienced since losing 9-3 to the London Knights in the opening game of the 2001-02 season.
After playing seven consecutive away matches and collecting 12 points from a possible 14 along the way, game eight was simply one too many for the Giants, who by the end were glad to hear the sound of the final hooter.
Paul Adey's team had been aiming to take their winning run to a season's best of six matches, but the silver lining is that they stay five points clear at the top of the Elite League table ahead of Saturday night's clash with the Edinburgh Capitals at the Odyssey Arena.
The Panthers grabbed the lead at 9:07 with their first powerplay opportunity of the game.
Cody Brockwell was sent to the box for a slashing offence and while he took a break David Clarke and Jonathan Weaver worked the puck to Leigh Salters, who netted his 11th goal of the season.
Clarke then netted the second himself at 18:36 when he was the beneficiary of some fine build-up play by Matt Francis and Joonas Saari.
The Giants were glad to get into the dressing room at the end of the first period and whatever coach Paul Adey said during the 15 minutes with his players seemed to have an impact when they gained a foothold in the game within 79 seconds of the second period.
Brockwell and Evan Cheverie set up the chance and Craig Peacock beat Craig Kowalski in the Panthers goal.
That was as close as it got for the Giants though, as three second-period goals from the Panthers ended the game as a contest.
Francis tapped home Chris Murray's pass to restore the two-goal advantage on a powerplay at 23:43 after Cheverie had been punished for slashing.
Salters then scored his second of the night shortly after the midway point of the game after being set up by Robert Farmer and Stephen Lee.
The Panthers now had the bit between their teeth and they refused to let up.
Former Belfast Giants player Brandon Benedict started the move that led to the Panthers' fifth goal at 36:44.
He slipped the puck to Petr Kalus and he turned in on to Robert Lachowicz, who finished past Stephen Murphy.
There was a glimmer of hope of a comeback when the Giants brought the scoreline back to 5-3 at 42:39.
They had been awarded a powerplay after Eric Werner had been deemed guilty of delaying the game and Kevin Saurette and Jeffrey Szwez combined to set up Calvin Elfring to score.
The Panthers weren't about to allow the two points to slip away though and they piled on the agony with three more goals in the space of a little more than 10 minutes.
Jonathan Boxhill made it 6-3 when he fired home after Salters and Matt Ryan had carved out the opportunity.
The Giants only had themselves to blame for the final two goals of the game as Nottingham took out full punishment for indiscipline.
David Phillips was in the box as Kalus made it 7-3 and Chris Higgins was off the ice when Chris Capraro sealed the win at 54:29.
Andrew Dickson then replaced Murphy in goal for the Giants to save him any more agony.
Even a late fight between Giants captain Adam Keefe and Salters came far too late to have an effect of the game.