Belfast Giants edge thriller in penalty shots win over Cardiff Devils
Belfast Giants 3-2 Cardiff Devils (PS)
David Rutherford's sweet finish saw the Belfast Giants edge a phenomenal game over the Cardiff Devils, winning 3-2 on penalty shots on their return to the SSE Arena.
After an incredible 60 minutes, which saw Jim Vandermeer and Blair Riley's goals for the Giants cancelled out by strikes from Evan Mosey and Charles Linglet for the Devils, Rutherford was the only one to score his penalty shot to take the win.
Tyler Beskorowany made 33 saves on 35 shots, as well as three big stops in the shootout, as Belfast made it a four-point weekend and extended their lead at the top of the standings in the Elite League to three points.
The Giants exploded out of the blocks and, after Riley and Dustin Johner tested Bowns, it was defenceman Vandermeer who rattled in a slapshot from the high point at 5:12 on the powerplay to give the home side the lead.
On teddy bear toss night, that opening goal prompted the teddies to fly, the ice scattered with them and players from both teams required to help out with the clear-up, with the toys set to go to children in hospitals across Northern Ireland.
Back in the action, it didn't take long for the Devils to tie it up, defenceman Gleason Fournier doing brilliant work down the left boards to find Evan Mosey, who roofed the puck from the left circle at 6:13.
Despite seeing their lead vanish so quickly, Belfast kept up the pressure and they had two great chances to retake the lead, firstly in a melee in front of the net when Riley's shot was dropped by Bowns and then Kyle Baun hit the post on a breakaway shorthanded.
But there was controversy at the end of the period as Sean Bentivoglio thought he had given the Devils the lead with 27 seconds remaining in the period, however the goal was waved off for the man being in the crease, much to the disbelief of Bentivoglio.
That seemed to spur Cardiff on after the restart and they laid siege to Beskorowany's net, with Matt Pope and Fournier both going close before a good stick save from Beskorowany denied Sam Duggan out in front.
With their first real attack of the second period, the Giants struck again, David Rutherford with a lovely reverse pass to the backdoor and Riley finished off the back of Bowns at 26:57 to regain the lead.
Francis Beauvillier had a great opportunity when the puck broke to him in the slot, but Bowns saved his slapshot, before Jonathan Ferland and Josh Batch dropped the gloves when the Belfast man took exception to a hit along the boards.
Early in the third period, the Giants got an early reprieve when Ferland's last ditch stick denied Layne Ulmer an empty netter when Beskorowany misplayed a puck behind the net, a rare mistake from the usually reliable goaltender.
But the game was levelled soon after, Devils' star winger Charles Linglet driving the net from the right and beating Beskorowany with the shot at 43:55 to make it 2-2.
Belfast were lucky not to fall behind almost immediately when Matt Pope rang the iron from the left circle, with the Devils piling on the pressure as the final period wore down and looking the more likely to score.
And only a great save from Beskorowany when Rutherford's giveaway sent Joey Martin on a late breakaway ensured that the game would be decided by overtime.
What a period of overtime it was, an end-to-end affair that saw both sides have great chances to win it, the Devils denied a three-on-one goal when Riley got back with the stick check at the backdoor and Bowns making a great stop on a two-on-one the other way.
But the game would be decided by the dreaded shootout and, after Rutherford scored the Giants' second, the Devils needed Linglet to score his but Beskorowany made the save to hand the hosts the two points.
Man of the Match: #34 Tyler Beskorowany
Belfast Telegraph Digital