Farnham spares Giants' blushes as they weather Cardiff comeback to steal overtime win
CARDIFF, Wal -- It may be the end of the losing streak, and an impressive two points in a difficult building, but that only tells half the story of the Belfast Giants' incredible 4-3 overtime win at the Cardiff Devils.
Up 3-0 after two periods thanks to three powerplay goals and seemingly home and dry given how comfortable they looked, the Giants proceeded to throw away their lead by conceding three unanswered goals in the third period.
But, up stepped Bobby Farnham 3:05 into the extra period for the breakaway winner past Devils netminder Ben Bowns to steal the victory back and take the first game of the two sides' double-header in the Viola Arena.
After a tussle in the Giants' zone, the puck squirted out into neutral ice where the winger was first to it, and he timed his shot to perfection to beat Bowns to his glove side for the game-winner.
The result ends Belfast's four-game losing skid, and while the first two periods will undoubtedly be a positive for head coach Adam Keefe, what happened in the third period will leave him scratching his head.
It had seemed like the visitors had the two points wrapped up, only for Gleason Fournier and former Giants captain Blair Riley to strike twice in 12 seconds to make it a one-goal game, before Charles Linglet tied it up with 5:07 remaining.
Brian Ward, Jordan Smotherman and Mark Garside all had powerplay tallies for the Giants to put them ahead, however when the game went to extras, it seemed like all the momentum was behind the hosts, particularly with the crowd in boisterous form.
But deep into overtime, up stepped Farnham for the game-winner that sees Belfast snap their winless streak, improve to 9-5-2 on the season and take the first of two games at the Viola Arena this weekend to strike a significant psychological blow on the Devils.
"It was kind of a 50-50 puck, Lowns (Ryan Lowney) got a got stick on it and I just set off. Had the breakaway and put it in!" grinned Farnham.
"That was huge. Winning that game is two big points for us, especially after losing four in a row. You don't want to relinquish a three-goal lead like that, but we did a lot of good things in that game."
The contrast between the first 50 minutes and the final 10 was as stark as it has been in a Giants game for a long time.
Head coach Adam Keefe got the response that he was looking for from his men both in terms of offense, as they dominated the shot count to the tune of 22-11 in the opening two periods as well as ringing the iron once, and their return from their special teams.
The penalty kill ran at a pristine 2-for-2 on the night as a whole, while their 3-for-4 powerplay was what had them in what appeared to be an unassailable position heading into the final frame.
They were aided by some odd decisions from the Devils, with Masi Marjamaki's slew footing major leading to Smotherman's second and a match penalty for the Finn, but the Giants' special teams were visibly much improved after a dismal 0-for-4 clip last weekend.
"On the powerplay you either want to score goals or generate momentum and we've been frustrated of late," said man of the match Ward.
"To be able to find the back of the net and win the special teams battle is huge. It's a big focus, it's a big part of the game for us. We were happy with how it went, how we got pucks to the net."
Ward put them ahead after 6:47 with his ninth goal of the season, depositing the puck at the back door after a kind bounce off the backboards for 1-0, with Smotherman's seeing eye shot at 11:57 beating Bowns - 32 saves - to make it 2-0.
Restored to fourth line centre, Garside popped up with only his second goal of the season on the powerplay in the second period, going bar down from the angle after winning the offensive zone face-off himself at 8:30 and taking the feed from Ciaran Long for 3-0.
While he didn't show up on the scoresheet, new man David Goodwin looked every bit the livewire Keefe likely hoped he would be when they signed him earlier this week, showing some nice speed and the willingness to go to the net they hoped he would provide.
"That wasn't an easy game to come into," praised Mason. "I thought he played well and contributed. Definitely came in and gave us the boost we needed."
And at the other end, Goodwin's inclusion meant a rare night off for regular starting netminder Shane Owen, but in his stead Stephen Murphy - who made 12 saves altogether - shut the door in the early stages to ensure the visitors had a comfortable lead.
But the warning signs were there for Belfast as the Devils put in a significant push in the latter stages of the second period, and although the Giants weathered it to the intermission, the hosts were in no mood to be forgiving late in the third.
"We expected them to make a push. They're a quality team and you can't keep them out forever if you keep giving them chances," admitted Mason.
"We had a couple mistakes that opened things up for them and they capitalised. Disappointed to concede two goals that quickly, that's something we don't want to see happen.
"But the boys showed a lot of resiliency to get back in the trenches and pull that one out."
Fournier got some puck luck for the first at 9:24 of the final period, a loose puck dropping right on his stick for the one-timer past Murphy, but the Giants were squarely to blame for not picking up the pace for the next shift and conceding again.
Only 12 seconds separated Fournier's opener and Riley's second, the ex-Giant celebrating with aplomb in front of the home fans after tipping in Fournier's dish to the crease from down the boards.
With the building clearly having stepped things up a notch, the leveller was only a matter of time, and it duly arrived when Linglet showed his immense skill by cutting in from behind the goal, going to the line and flinging it backhanded top shelf from seemingly an impossible angle.
From then on, the visitors were just holding on and trying to at least ensure they had a point safe from the fixture having seemingly had both in the bag, and they needed a massive double save from Murphy to deny Sean Bentivoglio twice in quick succession to keep it tied and send it to extras.
And just when it seemed it was all going to slip away from the Giants, up stepped Farnham in overtime. And that could just be the most important goal of their season so far.
"We did a lot of good things tonight. We can't look at it too much because I thought we still played alright. Let's call it a lesson learned never to take your foot off the gas," added Farnham.
"Credit to them, they played really hard in the third. But it's great to be getting out of here with the two points."
The two sides clash again on Sunday afternoon at 4pm in the second game of their double-header at the Viola Arena.
Belfast Telegraph Digital