Coventry Blaze 2 Belfast Giants 0: The Belfast Giants suffered a rare shutout last night as Doug Christiansen’s men saw their lead at the top of the Elite League table cut to five points.
It is the first time in 30 games — going back to February — that the Giants hadn’t managed to get onto the scoresheet and the current injury crisis played a part in their failure to find the net.
The Giants have had the better of defending champions Coventry Blaze in three previous meetings this season, but couldn’t make it four as Paul Thompson’s side claimed a 2-0 win in their continued attempts to rise up the table after a below par start to the campaign.
The Giants’ inability to score was all the more surprising given that they fired 35 shots on Brett Jaeger’s goal throughout the 60 minutes. Coventry, though, put in 42 shots on Giants goaltender Stephen Murphy, with the Scot being equal to all but two of them.
In a game that was broken up by penalty calls, the Giants spent a total of 18 minutes — almost a full period — playing short-handed which caused already fatigued players to tire even quicker.
And although Coventry had 16 minutes of penalties themselves, the fact that they had virtually a full roster allowed them to rest tired legs.
Indeed it was from two powerplay chances that Coventry scored their goals, with strikes early in the second and third periods to defeat the Giants.
There was just a single second of the first period to go when Giants captain Colin Shields was punished with an interference penalty, meaning the Belfast men returned to the ice a man short.
And it was during those two minutes that Blaze grabbed the advantage.
Greg Chambers and Jonathan Weaver combined and Brad Cruikshank provided the finish.
Coventry out-shot the Giants 16-8 in the second period, but despite that neither team could add to the scoring.
That Giants were punished for having too many men on the ice a couple of minutes into the third period — their second such penalty of the game — and while Ross Dalgleish served that, Luke Fulghum set up Brian Lee to double the advantage.
Although they had the better of the shot count in the third period, the Giants couldn’t get themselves back into the game and couldn’t prevent a second defeat of the season.
So bad is the situation the Giants find themselves in with players missing for varying lengths of time, that 44-year-old assistant coach Rob Stewart returned to the ice in the 5-3 win over the Hull Stingrays on Saturday night to answer an emergency call, but he didn’t play last night.
Stewart may still return to the Odyssey ice tomorrow night for the first time in four years when the Stingrays are the visitors to Belfast.