Belfast Giants 2 Cardiff Devils 3
The Belfast Giants were forced to swallow a bitter pill as a 3-2 win for the Cardiff Devils saw them crowned Elite League champions for the second season in succession.
It was the late, late show for Cardiff though, with the winning goal that secured the title coming with just 20 seconds to go.
Knowing that their rivals needed a victory to ensure they retained the crown, the Giants frustrated the Devils for long periods, but ultimately — like their own league title hopes — Adam Keefe’s men were unable to finish the job.
Although they had plenty of pressure in the opening stages it took the Giants until 13:22 to open the scoring.
Steve Saviano got the Giants off the mark with a cool, decisive finish, only to see Cardiff draw the scores level just 41 seconds later, with Joey Martin wrong-footing Giants goaltender Chris Truehl.
Cardiff got the go-ahead goal at 33:17 — in controversial circumstances. Giants players claimed that Murphy had been taken down as he exited his own zone, but the officials allowed play to carry on.
Cardiff brought the puck out from behind their own net and Pope skated through on the left, sending his shot into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
The Giants led through Spiro Goulakos, within three minutes.
Joey Haddad rung the pipes on a powerplay early in the third period and Brendan Connolly — who had been sitting out — stepped straight back onto the ice and almost grabbed the go-ahead goal.
With Connolly in the box again right at the death Andrew Hotham skated through three Giants challenges and sent his shot high into the net to seal the win and the title.