Giants' comeback falls short as Flames prevail in tight battle at the Spectrum
Guildford Flames 4-1 Belfast Giants
GUILDFORD, Eng -- Two empty-net goals settled a tight game in Guildford as the Belfast Giants once again showed their inconsistency in losing 4-1 to the Flames at the Guildford Spectrum.
Ian Watters and T.J. Foster both scored inside the final two minutes to secure the victory and prevent the Giants from making it a four-point weekend following their win over the Sheffield Steelers on Friday.
Brian Ward had pulled it back to a one-goal game in the second period after Jesse Craige and Ben Davies had put the Flames two to the good in the first, but they couldn’t find that key tying goal.
Belfast were backed by an outstanding 38 stops from netminder Shane Owen, however they couldn’t get the offense to back him up, with Guildford backstop Wouter Peeters turning away 20 of the 21 shots he faced.
With the loss, the Giants fall to 20-12-2 on the season and lose ground on the league-leading Steelers, who they now trail by seven points in the standings again after closing the gap earlier in the week.
With the Flames having played the night before in Dundee, the hope for the Giants was they could be the faster team out of the blocks, but when Ben Lake took a boarding call, they found themselves on the back foot.
The hosts’ lethal powerplay proved too good for the visitors’ kill unit, Craige taking the puck in the left circle off Calle Ackered’s feed and slamming in the one-timer at 5:12.
It was with both sides down a man when the Flames doubled their lead as well, Watters (interference) and Ryan Lowney (holding) both in the box when Davies struck.
The British international slalomed through the neutral zone and took advantage of some passive Giants defence to go into the right circle and beat Owen low to his left for 2-0 at 9:08
Both teams had big penalty kills late to round off the opening period, Watters again heading off for boarding this time, while the Giants saw off a Lewis Hook minor for cross-checking.
Having been out-shot 21-7 in the opening period, head coach Adam Keefe needed a response early in the middle frame from his men, and he got it just 2:10 in when Ward halved the deficit.
It was Bobby Farnham who created the goal, the winger battling behind the net to bring the puck back out in front and he supplied the tape-to-tape pass for Ward to redirect in at the back door for 2-1.
The visitors were nearly level shortly afterwards too, Elgin Pearce managing to get the tip on Lowney’s shot from the blue-line, only to see it ping back off the post and away.
The Giants’ penalty kill came up big again late in the second period, playing out a roughing call on Rickard Palmberg to set up a tense final period.
However, the Giants reverted back to their offensively-shy first period ways in the final frame, unable to severely test Peeters in the Flames net, with the closest they came being a Pearce knuckle-shot that the netminder was able to bat away.
Trailing by a goal late in the third, Keefe pulled Owen for the extra skater, but Guildford took full advantage of the empty net, with Watters and T.J. Foster adding the final two goals to complete the victory.
Belfast are back in action next Saturday when they go on the road to the Glasgow Clan, needing to start picking up the pace to close the gap at the top.
Belfast Telegraph Digital