Belfast Giants shutout for first time in season by rampant Glasgow Clan
Glasgow Clan 5-0 Belfast Giants
Having knocked them out of the Challenge Cup and then blitzed them in the Elite League at the SSE Arena, the Belfast Giants finally felt the full wrath of the Glasgow Clan.
Unbeaten in their last four at home, Glasgow were always going to be a different beast on their home ice and so it proved, the hosts riding a hot streak in the second period to score four of their goals in the 5-0 shutout victory.
Netminder Joel Rumpel kept a shutout as Belfast, inserting Jonathan Ferland back into the line-up in place of Darcy Murphy, struggled for offensive output as they were blanked for the first time this campaign.
The Giants fall to 34-11-2 on the season and drop to three points behind league leaders the Cardiff Devils, with next weekend's double-header against their title rivals looking even more important to take four points from given they have to concede a game in hand to them.
However, the schedule still sits in the Giants' favour, with their remaining four road games all against sides ranked in the bottom six of the Elite League, while six of their last nine home games see them welcome bottom-half sides to Belfast.
In contrast, the Devils - who downed the Milton Keynes Lightning to double up on them over the weekend - still need to play three of their remaining six home games against top-five sides, with three of their eight road games against top half opposition.
On the night, however, it was a performance far off the mark of championship contenders as Belfast were well off the pace required to defeat a fired-up home side, who produced a display that was worlds apart from what they brought to the two games in Belfast.
It was Clan winger Vaclav Stupka who fired Glasgow into the lead 3:47 into the second period, the Slovak picking up a rebound from his own shot and slotting it past Tyler Beskorowany for his 12th goal of the season to put the hosts ahead.
That was after both penalty kill units were called into action at the end of the first, the Giants doing their job when Chris Higgins was called for tripping before Guillaume Doucet headed off for a high stick shortly after, neither powerplay capable of capitalising on their abbreviated advantages.
Having been so lethal in their opening two games against Glasgow, the Giants' powerplay again drew a blank when Zack Fitzgerald sat for instigating a fight with Kevin Raine, although they did ring the iron as they upped the offensive.
But in pressing for the equaliser, they fell two behind to a shorthanded marker from Rasmus Bjerrum, the Danish forward going on the breakaway and slotting coolly past Beskorowany on the one-on-one at 6:10 of the second.
With the bit between their teeth, the hosts didn't let up their offensive assault and they took advantage with 8:50 gone of the second. Zach Sullivan had the shot from the blue line and Gerard Hanson got the tip out in front to redirect it into the net.
And a dreadful period for the visitors came to an end as the visitors got their fourth with a minute left on the clock, Scott Pitt finishing off the two-on-one with Stupka by striking from in the slot, and but for the buzzer just preceding it then Brendan Connolly would have scored a fifth on the powerplay with Kyle Baun in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Needing a response early in the third having killed off the rest of Baun's penalty, the Giants powerplay got two chances when a too many men call on the Clan cut short their own powerplay with Ferland off for tripping, and then when Matt Haywood headed off for a slashing call, however the special teams couldn't convert on either.
That ensured the Belfast powerplay would finish a ghastly 0-for-5 on the night, a big reason why the scoreline was as lopsided as it was, and Connolly's powerplay strike with 5:25 remaining ensured the penalty kill wouldn't finish unblemished either, further piling on the misery for the visitors.
The Giants return to action in the Elite League on Friday (face-off 7pm) with the first game of their top of the table double-header against the Cardiff Devils at the SSE Arena.
Belfast Telegraph Digital