Cardiff Devils 1-4 Belfast Giants
CARDIFF, Wal -- Where they couldn't hold onto a three-goal lead the night before, on Sunday afternoon the Belfast Giants rectified that at the Viola Arena.
A day after blowing a 3-0 lead - but still rallying to win in overtime - the Giants once again found themselves three goals to the good against the Cardiff Devils whenever Liam Reddox struck 3:58 into the final period.
But this time there would be no drama and no need for overtime. This time the Giants comfortably saw out the tie and emerged with a 4-1 victory from the Welsh capital for a massive four-point weekend against their title rivals.
It was a professional display from Adam Keefe's men, who were backed by a stellar 33-save display from Shane Owen between the pipes, as they improve to 10-5-2 on the season and leave their four-game losing skid firmly in the rear-view mirror.
"After losing those last couple of games, I needed to bounce back and I felt really good out there," said netminder Owen. "The team played great in front of me. For 120 minutes I thought we were awesome.
"That's a huge confidence booster for us as a team."
Perhaps Keefe will be even more impressed with how his side came out and battled from the start, knowing that Cardiff would be out for vengeance after the day before, with Bobby Farnham and Ryan Lowney setting the pace early by dueling with Shaone Morrisonn and Blair Riley.
Added to that was they got key goals at key times too, and that visibly sucked the life out of the Welsh side.
Brian Ward's strike just 13 seconds before the second intermission changed the complexion of the final frame, the centre squeezing the puck five-hole on Ben Bowns - 19 saves - after some good work behind the net from David Goodwin to make it 3-1 and have the visitors in the locker room with a comfortable lead.
And then, with the game delicately poised, Liam Reddox got only his fifth goal of the season just 3:58 into the third period to make the game secure, taking Farnham's dished pass and finishing backhanded on Bowns for 4-1 and sucking the life out of the Viola Arena.
"When we've got a team on the ropes we've got to finish them. We've all talked about offensively the struggles we've had, but when we focus we can get it done," said scorer Reddox.
"That goal in the last minute (of the second period) was huge, and then to break any will they had in the fourth was a really good feeling for the group."
Of course, it is also a big psychological boost for the Giants given their recent form, which had seen them lose their four prior games to the weekend, while taking two in the Cardiff Devils' own building will be a hugely pleasing aspect to the weekend as well.
New man David Goodwin again impressed, adding an assist to the one he got on Saturday night to make it two points in as many games for the men in teal, while they continued to impress on the powerplay.
Ben Lake's opener came on the 5-on-3, Sean Bentivoglio (high sticking) and Riley (elbowing) in the box, and the centre was on hand to rattle in the rebound from Jordan Smotherman's initial shot to make it 1-0 at just 7:09 of the first period.
"We simplified things, got pucks to the net and found rebounds. It was nice to see," said head coach Keefe of his team's special teams display.
"That's all it comes down to. And even if you aren't scoring, if you're getting those opportunities then you can gain momentum from the powerplay. That's the most important thing, and we did that."
But it was a penalty to Lake - his second of the game - that gave the Devils the chance to tie it up, and they did so at 14:43 when Joey Martin passed across the face of goal for Mike McNamee and the forward tipped it in top shelf for 1-1, and the only time Owen was beaten in a big display.
It was winger Patryk Wronka who popped up with the game-winner at 10:01 of the second period, the Polish international firing one on goal that took a wicked deflection off Sean Bentivoglio's stick and evaded Bowns in the Devils net.
On the night, the Giants were 1-for-8 on the powerplay, which visibly looked more energetic and dangerous, while their penalty kill was particularly big in killing off two big penalties in the third, running at a 5-for-6 clip.
The droves of fans that left the arena early were music to the large travelling support's ears, who were loud and vocal all night, and their team responded on the ice in emphatic style.
Perhaps this was the perfect weekend for a team snake-bitten on offense given all it seemed to do was rile them up and make them play better. You certainly can't say they're snake-bitten any more.
"It shouldn't matter who (we play). Every team in this league is very good and you want to go into every game and battle hard against teams at the top or the bottom of the table," added Owen.
"The big thing is we trusted the process, we played for 60 minutes and we came out with the two points tonight."
The Giants are back in action on Wednesday night when they travel to the Sheffield Steelers at the flyDSA Arena for FreeSports' latest live offering.