Back-to-back defeats hit Giants title hopes
Belfast Giants 4 Milton Keynes Lightning 5
The Belfast Giants Elite League title hopes lie in tatters after Milton Keynes Lightning inflicted a second defeat in as many nights on Adam Keefe's team.
The 5-4 loss means that a run of just three wins in their last eight night games has seen the Giants fall 11 points behind the Cardiff Devils at the top of the table and they are now fighting it out with Manchester Storm for second place in the table.
After losing to the Edinburgh Capitals, the league's bottom placed team, on Saturday night the Giants got off to the worst possible start when they found themselves two goals behind with just over four and a half minutes gone.
A penalty against Kevin King after only 87 seconds should have given the Giants the opportunity to score, but instead Milton Keynes turned the tables when Christian Isackson on the mark to give them the lead at 2:08.
Things got even worse when it became 2-0 at 4:35 as the Giants were on the penalty kill.
With Brendan Connolly in the box Jackson Whistle made the initial save from King, but he was powerless to stop Lewis Hook forcing home the rebound.
The early goal-rush continued when the Giants hauled themselves back into the game just 33 seconds later.
Jonathan Ferland played a lovely pass across the crease and Connolly was there at the back door to finish.
The Giants levelled matters at 26:20.
David Rutherford pushed the puck forward on the left, Murphy couldn't quite get the end of his stick to it at the first attempt, but it came back into his path off Lightning goaltender Jindrich Pacl and this time he made no mistake.
The Giants turned things around four minutes before the end of the second period when Rutherford put them in front for the first time in the game.
Already on a powerplay, the Giants had six skaters against four when the referee called a delayed penalty and Connolly pulled the puck back from behind the net for Rutherford, who was in the perfect position to score from close range.
Isackson netted his second goal of the game to bring Milton Keynes level again on a powerplay at 46:55, but they were only on terms for 40 seconds before a Spiro Goulakos special from the blueline put the Giants back in front.
The Giants weren't able to hold on to that winning position though as Lightning restored parity in bizarre circumstances. From a face-off in the Giants zone Guillaume Doucet connected with the puck and sent it flying past Whistle at 49.30.
It was end-to-end stuff in the final minutes as both teams went for the winner.
Sadly for the Giants it was Milton Keynes who got it just 38 seconds from the end when the puck was sent across the face of goal from left to right and Francis Verreault-Paul was waiting with an outstretched stick to divert it into the net.