Belfast Giants suffer back-to-back defeats after late goal from Milton Keynes Lightning
Belfast Giants 4
Milton Keynes Lightning 5
Francis Verreault-Paul’s late goal made it back-to-back defeats for the Belfast Giants as they dropped a second consecutive game at home, losing 5-4 to the Milton Keynes Lightning at the SSE Arena.
Having suffered a shock loss to the Edinburgh Capitals on Saturday night, this result wasn’t much better as the hosts couldn’t put away their visitors and they paid the price when Verreault-Paul fired home at the back post.
After a night off on Saturday, there was a return for regular Giants starter Jackson Whistle, while the Lightning opted for backup Jindrich Pacl despite having Miika Wiikman available.
Head coach Adam Keefe asked for better starts from his side, but this one couldn’t have been worse as Milton Keynes took the lead shorthanded at 2:08, forward Verreault-Paul going on a breakaway and his centring pass was finished by Christian Isackson.
It got even worse for the hosts at 4:35 when that lead was doubled on the powerplay, Whistle only able to bat away Kevin King’s slapshot from the top of the right circle and Lewis Hook was first to the rebound to force it in.
The goals kept flowing and the Giants got on the board at 6:08, Jonathan Ferland showing great commitment to win the puck battle behind the net against Quin Pompi and his pass back across the crease was put in by Brendan Connolly.
Paul Phillips then produced a brilliant stick block with Belfast threatening, while at the other end Verreault-Paul and Hook both rattled the pipes in quick succession, providing the hosts with a much-needed let-off.
An even start to the second period, which saw Pacl produce a stunning pad stop at the post to blank Connolly, was finally broken at 26:20 with the Giants’ equaliser, Darcy Murphy poking the puck at Pacl and then taking the rebound around the netminder to finish.
Blair Riley had a great chance to put Belfast ahead when he went through on Pacl, although the netminder got his body behind the puck to stop it before the hosts finally went ahead.
The powerplay goal came at 35:59, a mess in front of goal seemingly ruining any chance of an opportunity presenting itself, only for the puck to find its way back into the slot where David Rutherford slammed it in.
That saw the Giants ahead at the second intermission, but their lead lasted all of six minutes as Milton Keynes tied it up at 46:55 on the powerplay, Christian Isackson netting his second by firing in Denny Kearney’s pull back into the slot.
But almost immediately Belfast responded to go back in front, a trademark Spiro Goulakos slapshot from the blueline crashing into the twine at 47:35 to put the home side back ahead.
Yet again the visitors drew level on the powerplay, this time at 49:30 just two seconds after Cole Jarrett had entered the box, Guillaume Doucet ripping a shot past Whistle from the left side.
Pacl, however, was having to be on top form to keep the scores tied as he produced two excellent stops, the first a world class post-to-post stop to deny Ferland at the back door before denying Sylvestre on a one-on-one.
And off the back of those saves the visitors stole it with just 38 seconds to play, a scrappy play at the net finally breaking to Verreault-Paul and his finish was accurate into the net to hand the Lightning the win.
Man of the Match: Christian Isackson (Milton Keynes Lightning)
Belfast Telegraph Digital