Belfast Giants dealt double blow as Storm hit late brace to steal points
Manchester Storm 2 Belfast Giants 1
The Belfast Giants were hit with a double blow as victory turned to defeat in Manchester.
Leading 1-0 for more than three quarters of the game after Jonathan Ferland's fourth-minute goal, the Giants were just over 10 minutes away from claiming a superb away win before Manchester Storm's late, late show which took them back to the top of the Elite League table.
Storm scored twice in less than two and a half minutes midway through the third period and although the Giants piled on the pressure in the closing stages they were left with nothing but disappointment.
The defeat added to Saturday evening's 6-4 reverse at home to the Edinburgh Capitals to make a pretty miserable weekend for the Giants.
The Giants made the more positive start to the game and had already tested Storm goaltender Mike Clemente before the opener, which came at 3:52.
Ryan Martinelli was instrumental in the goal, picking up the puck and skating through the zones before sending a pass for Ferland to finish off.
The Giants were only denied a second soon after by Clemente's pipework before the Strom goaltender began to frustrate the Belfast forwards with a series of saves.
At the other end Jackson Whistle made a key save on a Storm breakaway as they began to exert some pressure at the end of the first period.
Four powerplay opportunities came and went for the Giants during a wide open second period, with Storm having a number of big scoring chances, even when short handed.
The opening minutes of the third period were exactly the same, with the puck going end to end and Storm coming close to levelling when it was their turn to rattle a shot off the pipes before another big save from Clemente.
A melee involving a number of players - sparked by an alleged check to the head from Ferland - saw a total of five players sent to the penalty box, with Ferland's involvement ended when he was also hit with a 10-minute misconduct.
Just a matter of seconds after all that had been sorted out Storm struck the equaliser at 49:53.
Mike Hammond sent a pass into the path of Paul Swindlehurst and he cracked home his shot beyond the reach of Whistle.
With all bar Ferland back on the ice both teams were attacking strongly, but it was Storm who grabbed the go-ahead goal at 52:15.
Ciaran Long and Jay Rosehill broke against a single Giants defenceman and when the former fed the puck to the latter he sent a powerful shot past Whistle, with the Giants goaltender having little chance.
The Giants were going all out for an equalising goal, but their drive forward was dented when Brendan Connolly was called for a holding penalty with just over three minutes left on the clock.
No sooner was he back on the ice than Whistle was called to the bench to allow the Giants to go with the extra skater.
Coach Adam Keefe even called a time out in an attempt to rally his troops.
There was even the chance of a dramatic finale when Storm's Shane Bakker was called for a cross check with just eight seconds to go, but it was too late to have an impact on the game and the Giants were left to reflect on two points that slipped away.