Belfast Giants' bid to top table goes down in Flames
Guildford Flames 3 Belfast Giants 2
An eight-game winning streak finally came to an end for the Belfast Giants as they were defeated 3-2 at the Guildford Spectrum by the Guildford Flames in the Elite League.
After winning their opening two of the three game weekend matches against the Milton Keynes Lightning, Adam Keefe's men missed their chance to go top of the table as they were snuffed out by the Flames.
Swedish defenceman Calle Ackered was Belfast's tormentor-in-chief, the Flames blueliner scoring twice - including the game winner - and adding an assist as the fresh Guildford roster came out with the two points.
It was discipline trouble that cost the Giants most as they conceded three times on the penalty kill, their defence unable to keep the dangerous Flames special teams quiet enough.
After conceding just two goals across the two wins over Milton Keynes, the Giants stuck with starting netminder Tyler Beskorowany between the pipes for the third straight day, while Guildford countered with Canadian goalie Chris Carrozzi.
The effects of three games in three days seemed to have an effect on the Giants early as the Flames controlled the first ten minutes, and Adam Keefe's side fell behind to a well worked goal from Kruise Reddick at 6:19.
On Guildford's second powerplay of the game, the forward received a pass from the dangerous Ackered and his short-side shot managed to beat Beskorowany at his near post.
But when Guildford ran into penalty trouble of their own, the Giants were lethal in striking back and levelled the game at 12:35, the visitors working a two-on-one powerplay opportunity that allowed Darcy Murphy to finish.
A highly physical start to the second period saw Belfast have a couple of powerplay chances to go ahead, however their special teams couldn't come through, and the Flames made them pay for their wastefulness.
With Jonathan Ferland in the penalty box, the hosts struck again on the powerplay, this time it was Ackered who scored the goal, unleashing one of his trademark slapshots from the blueline that beat Beskorowany at 35:20.
If Ackered's goal was trademark, then so was Kyle Baun's equaliser at 37:38 to make it a level game going into the third, the forward battling away in a scramble at the front of the net and jamming the puck home under the pads of Carrozzi. A tense third period saw both sides have some good looks at the net, but both netminders were in good form and kept the respective offenses at bay.
But once again it would be the powerplay unit of Guildford and that man Ackered who would decide it at 55:25 when Kendall McFaull took a needless hooking penalty.
That gave the hosts the man advantage and, when the puck fell to Ackered on the shortside again, the Swede made no mistake in rifling home for the winner.