Belfast Giants fall short in Kirkcaldy as Flyers take off for five-star win
Fife Flyers 5-1 Belfast Giants
While the thrills of the final of the Friendship Four were unfolding at the SSE Arena, an entirely different set of circumstances were taking place in Kirkcaldy.
It's cliched, but the Belfast Giants have seemingly found some consistency in that they are consistently inconsistent as they once again failed to find any offense in a tame 5-1 loss at the Fife Flyers.
The highs of that double win at the Cardiff Devils has long been left in the memory, even though it was only seven days ago, as Adam Keefe's side dropped to 10-7-2 in the Elite League and failed to score more than once in a game for the eighth time this season.
Indeed, but for Ben Lake's powerplay marker with 54 seconds gone in the final period, the threat of consecutive shut-outs was a real possibility as Fife netminder Adam Morrison came up with 36 saves on 37 shots from the visitors.
Meanwhile, Flyers forward Carlo Finucci had a two goal night for the hosts, while Tim Crowder added a goal and two assists in the game to back up their excellent netminder and deservedly take the two points on offer.
Once again, shot creation is not a problem for Keefe's side as they outshot their hosts to the tune of 37-30, but one goal on the board tells its own story as they still struggle to find any reliable scoring from their forwards.
At the other end, the contrast was painful as Belfast starter Shane Owen was hauled adrift after one period, conceding three on 12 shots, and was replaced by Stephen Murphy, who fared slightly better at 16 saves on 18 shots.
The tale of the tape was remarkably similar to that of Wednesday night's defeat in Sheffield as the Giants came out of the gates the hotter of the two sides and had the lion's share of possession and zone time early, but couldn't make their advantage count and instead paid at the other end.
It took a 4:22 stretch in the opening frame for the Flyers to make the game safe and, in truth, it was down to a clinical edge that put them into an unassailable 3-0 lead by the first intermission.
Mistakes from the Giants in possession have been one of their Achilles heels this season, and it was a turnover in neutral ice from Bobby Farnham that allowed Tim Crowder to skate into the right circle and cannon one past Owen at 14:18 of the first to make it 1-0.
With Curtis Hamilton in the box for slashing, Finucci was at the back door to take Crowder's feed for the powerplay marker at 17:57 to double the lead, and 43 seconds later the game was beyond Belfast as Danick Gauthier deposited a rebound from his own shot for 3-0.
That signalled the end of Owen's night, the second time this season he has been withdrawn from a game early, and while Murphy settled things down in the second period, the Flyers smelled blood in the water and took their opportunity to pounce.
Todd Dutiaume's men dominated the middle frame, riding penalties from Brian Ward (high-sticking) and Paul Swindlehurst (unsportsmanlike) before striking on their third powerplay of the period when Ben Lake took a hooking call.
It was Kyle Just who got free in front of the net and he forced the jam play past Murphy down the shortside for 4-0 which really signalled that the game was over, if it hadn't already been.
Lake did at least ensure that the Giants wouldn't suffer the embarrassment of back-to-back bagels on the scoreboard when he poked in on the powerplay - Just in the box for hooking - and while that raised hopes of an unlikely comeback, it was nothing more than a false dawn.
Crowder (hooking) and Lake again (holding) traded penalties before Finucci added his second of the game, tipping in Mike Cazzola's backhander at the crease for 5-1 and confirming another damaging defeat for the Giants on the road.
If there can be any positives taken from the result it is another promising game for the powerplay, which ran at 1-for-2 on the night, while the penalty kill was 3-for-5 in Kirkcaldy.
But that's scraping the bottom of the barrel. The Giants are now averaging less than three goals per game in the league (2.89) despite still leading in shots per game (36.37), an unsustainable mark if they want to turn this funk around.
The Giants continue their Scottish double-header when they face the Dundee Stars on Sunday night (face-off 5pm) looking to snap a two-game skid.
Belfast Telegraph Digital