Devil in detail as Belfast Giants stand tall
Cardiff Devils 3 Belfast Giants 4 (After penalty shoot-out): Doug Christiansen praised the attitude of his Belfast Giants players after they returned from their first road trip of the season with a victory.
The win in Cardiff, however, was far from straightforward. The Devils led 2-0 with just 92 seconds on the clock and lesser teams would have been steamrollered.
Not the Giants. Christiansen has signed big characters and they came to the fore when faced with adversity and put two points on the board — points that even in the opening minutes of the game looked unlikely to be heading to Belfast.
And there were no complaints that a penalty shoot-out was needed in order to claim them.
“Cardiff is the toughest place in the league to get a win and any point there is an accomplishment,” said Christiansen.
“For us to make it a four-point weekend by winning there makes it even better.
“Most teams will have a tough time in Cardiff and I’m pleased that we’ve been able to take the points off them on our first trip there this season.
“It’s a tight rink, the fans are right on top of you and our guys showed a lot of courage to win the physical battles.
“They really came at us early and although they were 2-0 up after a minute-and-a-half I thought we would be okay.
“We’d had possession and we’d had chances. When it went to 3-1 I was feeling a little nervous, but guys paid the price to win.
“They took punches, took the hit and made some big hits too.
“That’s the kind of commitment that we need.”
Sam Smith’s goal after 52 seconds gave Cardiff an early boost. When Jeff Pierce doubled the lead 40 seconds later the Devils were firmly in the driving seat — and ousting them from it wasn’t going to be easy at all.
Although Craig Peacock scored on a powerplay at 4:13 the Devils were two goals to the good at the end of the first period after Brad Voth netted at 13:18.
Christiansen didn’t panic at the break, but the performance did improve and just before the five minute mark in the second period Brock McBride pounced to reduce the deficit.
Frustratingly for the Giants a five-on-three powerplay midway through the period came and went without a goal being scored — as did four minutes of playing with a man extra a few minutes later.
Christiansen, however, declared himself happy with his special teams, particularly after Mark Garside levelled with a powerplay goal at 45:59, which sent the game into overtime.
“Their goaltender performed very well during the five-on-three,” said Christiansen.
“We moved the puck well and created opportunities, but their penalty kill gets paid to do their job too and they did it.
“Overall we scored two from seven on the powerplay, they scored none from seven, so there’s no doubt over whose special teams came out on top.
“If our special teams come out with a percentage more than 105 then I’m happy and ours was way more than that.”
Scoring chances were few and far between in the extra five minutes, sending the match into a penalty shoot-out lottery.
None of the six shooters — Benoit Doucet, Jeff Mason and McBride for the Giants, Stuart MacRae, Pierce and Scott Matzka for Cardiff — managed to score in the first round.
Doucet netted the first shot of the second round and the Giants victory was confirmed when MacRae failed to find the target.