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Five-star Giants maintain the pressure in title quest

Guildford Flames 2 Belfast Giants 5

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Get in: Kevin Raine is mobbed after netting the Giants’ fifth goal

Get in: Kevin Raine is mobbed after netting the Giants’ fifth goal

Ciaran Long

Ciaran Long

William Cherry/Presseye

Get in: Kevin Raine is mobbed after netting the Giants’ fifth goal

The Belfast Giants found the net five times for the second night in a row to down the Guildford Flames in a 5-2 win at the Guildford Spectrum and record their first four-point weekend since January 4.

Bobby Farnham notched the game-winner on the breakaway at 15:10 of the second period, while Ciaran Long added his first goal since October 12 in the victory that sees Adam Keefe's men stay within striking distance at the top of the Elite League standings.

The Giants were twice pegged back by the Flames, but the visitors - backed by 29 saves from goaltender Shane Owen - comfortably saw the game out with two well-taken goals in the third period.

The win takes the Giants to 23-13-2 on the season and keeps them nine points behind the league-leading Sheffield Steelers ahead of a massive double-header against the Cardiff Devils next weekend.

It took the Giants just 2:07 to take the lead as they worked the odd-man breakaway perfectly. Long (below) skated in with Hamilton in support, and the Briton dished the pass for the latter to finish for 1-0.

Although the Giants killed off their first penalty of the night - Ben Lake heading off for slashing Ben Davies - when Matt Pelech put in a late hit on Davies while the visitors were already on a delayed call to Paul Swindlehurst for hooking, the Flames made them pay on the 5-on-3.

It was Jamie Crooks who provided the finish just nine seconds into the powerplay, the Flames forward getting the tip past Owen from Brett Ferguson's centring feed to tie it up at 1-1 at 6:17.

Jesse Craige was then inches away from putting Guildford ahead for the first time when his shot from the right circle pinged the crossbar and went over, and the Giants took advantage of the let-off to go ahead again.

This time it was Pelech who was the creator, the captain throwing the puck back in front for David Goodwin to supply the backhanded finish past Flames netminder Wouter Peeters from the crease at 9:28.

It had been a fiery first period, however, and the tensions that began with Pelech's hit on Davies spilled over late in the opening frame when Goodwin dropped the gloves with Ferguson after a trip from Jordan Rowley on Lake, with the Flames man getting the take down.

The Giants couldn't capitalise on the man advantage from Rowley's penalty, however, and that led to Guildford tying it up once again midway through the second period.

The hosts had come out much stronger after the first intermission, with Owen denying them with some big saves, but he could do nothing to stop Braylon Shmyr's thunderbolt of a one-timer off John Dunbar's feed to tie it 2-2 at 9:56.

Owen then had to come up big to prevent Guildford pulling ahead when Ian Watters broke away from neutral ice, deflecting the puck up and into the netting, and Farnham rewarded him by getting the Giants' third go-ahead goal.

It came four-on-four, with Lake (hooking) and Craige (interference) in the box, with the winger profiting from a good stick check in neutral ice to skate in unopposed on Peeters and finish five-hole at 15:10.

From there, the Giants saw out the game expertly, although not without scary moments, particularly when they ran into penalty problems.

First came Long's first goal in three months, the Briton reacting first to a loose puck after Ryan Lowney's initial shot was saved by Peeters and dispatching the rebound for 4-2 at 2:32 of the final frame.

Then the special teams took over, playing out a holding call on Pelech before Elgin Pearce then took a 2+2 for high sticking, with the visitors putting their bodies on the line to keep the Flames off the scoreboard.

And with Peeters pulled for the extra skater, it was defenceman Kevin Raine who rounded off the scoring with 57 seconds remaining, firing the puck from the neutral zone and into the empty cage to wrap up the victory and a four-point weekend.

Belfast Telegraph