At almost exactly the same on Sunday evening, two significant incidents happened in the Premier Sports Elite League.
In Guildford, Scott Conway’s game-winning goal on the way to the Belfast Giants’ 4-1 victory was awarded after a lengthy review, the officials determining that the centre’s shot would have still gone in had the Flames netminder not accidentally knocked the net off its moorings.
Meanwhile, some 370 miles away in Dundee, the final buzzer was sounding on the Sheffield Steelers’ 3-2 loss to the Stars.
The significance is not that the Giants’ rivals lost, but rather that in the context of the title race, things are a lot closer now than they were even half an hour before those events occurred.
At that point, the Steelers were 2-1 up and the Giants were down a goal thanks to Levi Cable’s first period opener for the Flames. In a wider context, had the results stayed that way, then the Giants would have been seven points behind the Steelers in the standings having played a game more than their rivals.
Instead, the Stars mounted a comeback and, later, so did the Giants to reduce the gap to just three at the top of the table and avoid a third straight defeat for the first time this season.
After Cable had put the Flames ahead on a breakaway at 13:53, there were fears that the Giants would follow their 12-game winning streak with their first three-game skid of the campaign, but instead they rallied in the second through Jordan Boucher and Conway, and then finished strong in the third through Mark Cooper and Sam Ruopp.
They needed netminder Tyler Beskorowany to be at his sparkling best when the Flames piled on the pressure with the score 2-1 early in the third, producing four big stops on Ian Watters twice and Brett Ferguson and Cable, and in the end he would turn away 27 out of 28 shots on his way to his 20th win of the season.
Boucher’s goal ended a run of 10 powerplays without a goal for the Giants, the winger batting the puck out of the air to tie things up 1-1 at 25:34 with Ferguson in the box, with Conway — with his team-leading 22nd of the season — putting the visitors one to the good at the second intermission when he roofed a rebound from a tight angle off Kevin Raine’s rebound at 36:14.
After Beskorowany’s heroics early in the third, the Giants still weren’t out of the woods when Jeff Baum took a hooking call, but the flawless penalty kill — which ran 4-for-4 on the night — came up big one more time to kill it off and keep them ahead.
That allowed Cooper to tap in Slater Doggett’s pass with 1:09 remaining for his seventh goal of the season to ensure the two points would head back across the Irish Sea, with Ruopp sliding the puck into the empty net with 19 seconds remaining just to add a bit of salt to the wounds.
At 19-7-0, they end the weekend where they started, three points behind the Steelers and Devils in the Elite League. But at this stage of the season, being back in the win column is far more valuable.