Giants are hit for six by slick Czech aces
Bili Tygri Liberec 6 Belfast Giants 1
The Belfast Giants were given a lesson on how to make your chances count as they were beaten 6-1 by Czech side Bili Tygri Liberec in the Champions League at the Home Credit Arena.
The hosts were simply far more clinical in front of goal, making more of their chances when they fell their way, and for that reason they finished comfortable winners.
Liberec were good value for their win, with Slovakian international Libor Hudacek once again tormenting the Giants with two goals - captain Petr Jelinek, Marek Zachar, Radan Lenc and Rostislav Marosz added too.
Ben Lake had responded for Belfast early in the second period, but they couldn't make the most of their chances at the other end and, as a result, suffer their first regulation defeat of the season.
The loss still sees the Giants level at the top of the standings in Group C on four points, although the two sides they are tied with, Augsburger Panther and Lulea, meet in Germany today, with one guaranteed to pull ahead.
The one thing head coach Adam Keefe would have been desperate to avoid would have been falling behind early, but that's exactly what happened just 39 seconds in when Liberec forged ahead.
It was a soft goal to concede, the puck squirting around the boards to the lurking Lukas Derner, and his shot from the blue-line got the faintest of touches from Hudacek out in front to beat netminder Shane Owen low.
The disastrous start only got worse when captain Matt Pelech fell foul of the officials, the imposing defenceman this time given 2+2 for crashing Jan Ordos into the boards behind the Giants' net in a fairly similar fashion to that which he hit Michal Bulir a week previous, although the visitors did kill the penalty well.
Unfortunately for the Giants, their lesson in taking their chances would come soon. While Liam Reddox delayed too long on a shot at one end of the ice, Petr Jelinek was not so forgiving at the other.
The forward was gifted the opportunity when Curtis Hamilton played a sloppy pass straight to him in the Giants' defensive zone and he punished them with a smart finish top shelf at 8:39.
That only led to more Liberec pressure to close out the period, and the Giants kill unit had to come up big again when Pelech headed off for interference late.
It looked like that theme of not taking their chances would continue to haunt the Giants in the second period when they failed to make any kind of an impression when Filippi headed off again, only for them to finally get on the board.
It was some tenacious work from Liam Morgan that fashioned the opportunity, the winger fighting along the boards to win the turnover and then centre for Ben Lake to slam home their first of the night at 4:26 of the second.
Just when hope sprang eternal, however, the hosts struck twice to crush the visitors' brief hopes that they might pull level.
First, Marek Zachar restored their two-goal lead at 8:14 when Jelinek went behind the net, and his pass back in front was finished short-side by the impressive winger.
Just 52 seconds later they had their fourth, the real hammer blow for the visitors, as a laser beam of a pass from Hudacek to the crease was deflected in by the skate of an unfortunate Giants defender to leave Owen with no chance of saving it.
Chasing the result, the game became more open, and that led to Liberec grabbing their fifth shorthanded 5:15 into the third.
With Marosz in the box for slashing, a breakaway saw Lenc skate in one-on-one with Owen and the forward made no mistake with the five-hole finish.
Tensions threatened to spill over late on, like they did in Belfast, and they did when Marosz rounded off the scoring with 1.0 seconds left on the clock, with a mass brawl on the ice seeing the game end in ugly fashion.
The Giants are next in action on Sunday when they take on Augsburger Panther at the Curt-Frenzel-Stadion (4pm).