The Belfast Giants missed a golden opportunity to cut Coventry Blaze’s lead at the top of the Elite League to three points.
And with it the Giants saw their chances of pipping Blaze to the title take a major turn for the worse.
Steve Thornton’s men have run into trouble against the Cardiff Devils on other occasions since the turn of the year and it was the same story last night.
Early penalty trouble for the Giants saw Kevin Phillips in the box and while he was off the Devils opened the scoring.
Ryan Finnerty took out full punishment on Phillips when he netted from Max Birbraer’s assist on six minutes.
Five minutes later the man Giants fans love to hate, Cardiff’s Brad Voth, doubled the advantage. He’d had a hand in the opening goal and Finnerty returned the favour by playing the final pass.
When Phil Hill scored unassisted four minutes later the game was already up for the Giants — who had actually recorded an impressive 15 shots during the first period.
They only tested Lyle five times in the second though and despite steering clear of penalties they couldn’t find a way back into the game.
Four power play opportunities came the Giants’ way in the final period, but none of them were converted into even a single goal, although a comeback at that stage was already unlikely.
When Mark Smith netted Cardiff’s fourth with less than two minutes to go it simply piled on the agony for the deflated Belfast men who now need massive favours if they are to get their hands on the league crown.