Belfast Giants continue top of the table push with win over Glasgow Clan
Belfast Giants 4-1 Glasgow Clan
The expected backlash from the Glasgow Clan never came and the Belfast Giants capitalised to continue their march towards the top of the Elite League table.
After being knocked out of the Challenge Cup by the Giants on Thursday night, it was anticipated that they would be fired up for the chance to rectify that in Saturday's league meeting, but in the end it was never too difficult for Belfast.
The third-placed Clan, who came into the game 10-3 in their last 13 in all competitions, were meant to provide stern opposition, but once Belfast forged three goals ahead you could feel that the result was all but assured.
Once again the powerplay clicked, going 1-for-3 including the opening goal of the game, and the penalty kill stood up with a 3-for-3 night as well as the Giants improved to 34-10-2 on the season and kept up the pressure on the league leading Cardiff Devils.
Captain Blair Riley led from the front with a tireless effort that included a goal, while Darcy Murphy potted a goal and an assist with Chris Higgins adding two assists in the Giants' victory as they kept their streak of games with a point going at nine.
Back in town for Stephen Murphy's testimonial on Tuesday night, the game's ceremonial face-off saw Paxton Schulte award Giants defenceman Kendall McFaull with a combined 27 jersey containing both their names.
On the ice, Belfast weren't for waiting around either. Patrick Dwyer drew a holding call on Zack Fitzgerald only 26 seconds in, and with only 18 seconds expired on the man advantage, Kyle Baun's reverse pass from under the right circle found the tape of Darcy Murphy's stick for the left circle finish.
If the first was a nicely worked finish, the second was anything but at 13:43. Murphy this time turned provider as he fired on Rumpel, the netminder unable to hold the puck to freeze the play and Colin Shields sweeping in to jam in the rebound.
The kill unit was required when Blair Riley was put in the box for an interference call with 5:35 left in the first, however the Giants' special teams came through for them, and they were rewarded by a grateful Riley early in the second.
The captain potted the Giants' 1700th home goal in the Elite League at 6:40 of the second, receiving the pass from Chris Higgins in the high slot and making no mistake with the finish high to Rumpel's glove side.
Glasgow had been threatening more to begin the second than they had in the first, which should have been the warning sign for Belfast, but it was an error from Tyler Beskorowany that allowed them to pull one back 7:32 into the middle stanza.
The netminder thought he had a slapshot from Zach Sullivan under control under his pads, however the puck squirted out behind him as he tried to freeze the play and Jack Musil was on hand to force it over the paint.
While he needed his team-mates to bail him out when he took his penalty in the first, Riley made amends when the Giants headed back to the kill with 5:59 left in the second with Higgins off for a hooking call. The captain produced a monumental solo forechecking effort to send his side into the second intermission with the two-goal advantage.
Both sides were required to stand up strong at the start of the third as both penalty kill units were called into service as Vaclav Stupka went off for a slashing call to begin the period, before Belfast's killers were forced to play out a tripping minor to Mark Garside.
Even though the Giants' powerplay couldn't make the most of a slashing call on Travis Ehrhardt late in the game, they would make the result safe with 3:16 remaining. Glasgow committed too many men forward in the search for a comeback goal, allowing Higgins to go on the breakaway and drop the pass for David Rutherford, on his 200th Elite League appearance, to slide it in.
The two sides meet for the final match-up of their three-game set at the Braehead Arena tomorrow afternoon (4pm).
Belfast Telegraph Digital