Elite League: Belfast Giants fall to home defeat against Braehead Clan
Belfast Giants 3 - Braehead Clan 5
Challenge Cup champions the Belfast Giants came back to earth with a thump as they were beaten 5-3 at the SSE Arena by the Braehead Clan as they returned to Elite League action.
A penalty-strewn second period, and conceding four unanswered goals, were the killer for Adam Keefe’s men as they dropped points at home again in their league campaign.
The Giants, who were missing prolific points scored David Rutherford from their gameday roster, started Jackson Whistle in nets, while everyday man Ryan Nie was between the pipes for the Clan.
For all the fear of a Challenge Cup hangover, that couldn’t have been farther from what occurred in the first period as Belfast thoroughly dominated, and but for the outstanding Nie things should have been a lot worse for the Scots.
The American had to make some smart stops from Spiro Goulakos and Brendan Connolly early on before then sticking out a leg to block from Ryan Martinelli as the defenseman went through one-on-one.
Darcy Murphy had two great chances to open the scoring, firing over after Connolly put him through on Nie before the netminder made another excellent stop to deny him five hole, but eventually the dam burst, with a stroke of good fortune.
With Jeff Mason serving two minutes in the box for tripping, the Giants got a shorthanded goal at 16:34 when a Braehead pass deflected straight to Colin Shields, the forward making no mistake in drawing Nie and roofing it past his stickside shoulder.
But the good start was erased 37 seconds into the second period when Brendan Brooks levelled matters, the forward blocking a shot from Jeff Mason at the blueline and taking it all the way to the other net where he roofed the puck past Whistle.
That was then compounded by penalty trouble, not an uncommon sight for the Giants this season, as first Jonathan Ferland received two for checking from behind before Kevin Raine was then ejected for a massive hit on Adam Brace into the boards.
With the 5-on-3 advantage, Braehead took the lead, Landon Oslanski’s initial shot from the high slot blocked by Whistle however Tyler Shattock was lurking at the crease to poke the rebound home five hole at 26:07.
The visitors now had their tails up and were starting to dictate proceedings, much to the visible frustrations of the Giants bench, and but for a good kick save from Whistle and the frame of the goal Brendan Brooks could have had his hat trick by the second intermission.
Instead it was defenseman Cameron Burt who added a third for the Clan at 39:46, again on the powerplay, as he fired a slapshot from the high point that evaded Whistle to his stickside and found the twine.
And they added a third powerplay goal, their fourth of their night, early in the third period at 41:32, Oslanski again causing danger from the blueline and his shot was tipped in front by Jacob Doty past the unsighted goaltender.
After Shattock passed up another glorious opportunity to add a fifth, wrapping his backhand just past the net with Whistle stranded, Belfast finally found a response at 46:26, the puck finding its way to Sébastien Sylvestre in the left circle and his wrister beat Nie on his glove side.
It looked like any hope the hosts had of pulling the game back had gone when they failed to capitalise on a five minute powerplay after Brooks was ejected for spearing off the puck.
But they would make it interesting as Brendan Connolly found their third at 56:26, Darcy Murphy doing all the hard work to create space behind the goal and when he centred it back into the high slot, Connolly snapped it home.
That set up a close finish, but the visitors made sure it would be a happy trip home when Shattock netted his second of the game at 58:45, sliding the puck the length of the ice for an empty netter with Whistle pulled.
Man of the Match: Tyler Shattock (Braehead Clan)
Belfast Telegraph Digital