Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Giants tame Panthers in Elite League weekend opener

Belfast Giants 5 Nottingham Panthers 2

By Adam McKendry

The Belfast Giants took the opening game of a doubleheader against the Nottingham Panthers, prevailing 5-2 at the SSE Arena in this Elite League clash.

Despite falling behind twice early on, the Giants rallied to tie the first period before going on to score three unanswered goals to pick up the two points on offer.

In-form backstop Jackson Whistle was between the pipes for Belfast, while the Panthers started backup Patrick Galbraith at the other end.

A blistering start saw Nottingham take the lead after just 1:04, their strong pressing rewarded early as forward Brett Perlini got the tip in on a Yann Sauvé shot from the blueline.

But the Giants equalised almost immediately, Dan Spang taking two minutes for hooking and a well-worked powerplay Goal levelling matters at 2:23, good passing from Cole Jarrett and David Rutherford setting up Sébastien Sylvestre to fire home from the right face off spot.

The tie again didn’t last long as the Panthers retook the lead at 3:58, and this time in a relatively soft manner as Tim Billingsley picked up the puck at the blueline and, under very little pressure, fired in a wrister that eluded Jackson Whistle and found the net.

Having been second best for the early parts of the game, Belfast slowly recovered and began to dominate proceedings, with the temperature slowly rising as John Kurtz and Mathieu Gagnon dropped gloves.

At 15:29 they tied matters again, Spiro Goulakos found completely alone in the slot by Colin Shields after a battle at the boards, and the defenceman deked around Galbraith to finish expertly.

Two extremely extended passages of play began the second period as both sides refused to give any yard to their opponents, with the Giants putting more pressure on Galbraith than their opponents did at the other end.

Finally, at 31:40, they got their reward, Jonathan Ferland crossing the blueline and despite being under pressure from Sauvé, his flicked wrister deflected off the Nottingham d-man’s stick and over Galbraith’s shoulder.

Neither side could do anything more in the second period, although it ended on a sour note as the two sides clashed briefly as they tried to leave the ice, and that led to a tasty final period.

That was only furthered by Alexander Mokshantsev and Darcy Murphy dropping the gloves early in the third, leading to a massive brawl between all the players on the ice, after Sébastien Sylvestre hit the post for the hosts.

Then came a game defining moment, Whistle losing the puck behind the goal to Robert Lachowicz, who centred it back to Evan Mosey with the goal at the mercy, but somehow the netminder recovered to make an outstanding save to deny him.

And, having just about maintained their lead, Belfast made the result secure when Brendan Connolly took the puck to the side of the net and centred it, where Sylvestre deflected it in off his skate to make it a two goal game at 54:47.

Connolly himself added the gloss with seven seconds remaining, firing into the net vacated by Galbraith as the Panthers sought two goals to tie it.

Man of the Match: Spiro Goulakos (Belfast Giants)

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