Rutherford on target for Giants in shoot-out victory
Belfast Giants 1-1 Coventry Blaze
David Rutherford has wasted no time in announcing himself to the Belfast Giants crowd.
The Canadian forward, who was signed from the Edinburgh Capitals last weekend, announced his home debut at the SSE Arena last night with the winning penalty as the Giants beat Coventry Blaze to move fourth in the Elite League table.
Rutherford was the only player to find the net in a shoot-out which reflected the tight nature of the 65 minutes that preceded it.
Coventry only managed 19 shots - while the Giants fired in 44 in return - but both teams could only manage one goal, with Brenden Walker giving Blaze an early lead before Brandon Benedict's second period equaliser.
After that only Rutherford was able to find the net on the night and the Giants will now enter the second leg of the double-header tonight with the aim of bagging all four points on offer over the weekend.
Although the Giants had the better of the opening exchanges it was Coventry who took the lead with only 3:31 on the clock.
Walker was the beneficiary of some good work by Carl Lauzon and Neil Trimm and he struck a powerful shot low past Giants goaltender Stephen Murphy and into the net.
The Giants came on strong during a powerplay and James Desmarais went close to levelling.
A second Coventry player was then sent to the penalty box, but with just seven seconds of a five-on-three powerplay there was little opportunity for the Giants to take full advantage.
Another third penalty in quick succession left Blaze short-handed for almost six consecutive minutes, but they were able to kill time successfully and took the lead into the second period.
A collision between Giants pair Chris Higgins and Mark Garside presented Coventry with the chance to double their advantage, but Murphy saved well to deny Walker his second goal of the game.
Blaze were then called for having too many players on the ice after a poor line change and the Giants made them pay the full price.
Rutherford collected the puck from player-coach Derrick Walser and in turn fed Benedict to flick the puck past Brian Stewart on the backhand at 28:21.
The Giants remained the better team and Desmarais was close to putting them into the lead with an attempted wraparound early in the third period.
They thought they had won the game in the last couple of minutes when the puck crossed the line, but the goal had been knocked off its moorings so the strike didn't count.
The only notable incident in overtime was right at the end when Coventry's Kevin Noble and the Giants Mike Radja clashed, with the Blaze man being kicked out of the game.
Drew Fisher and Trimm missed their penalties for Blaze, either side of Higgins missing for the Giants.
Rutherford scored the Giants second, meaning Lauzon couldn't afford to miss for Blaze, but he did meaning the extra point went Belfast's way.