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Giants given taste of their own medicine as Devils shut them out to split weekend

Belfast Giants 0-1 Cardiff Devils

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Belfast Giants winger Liam Morgan and Cardiff Devils winger Blair Riley drop the gloves during Sunday's game at the SSE Arena (William Cherry/Presseye)

Belfast Giants winger Liam Morgan and Cardiff Devils winger Blair Riley drop the gloves during Sunday's game at the SSE Arena (William Cherry/Presseye)

William Cherry/Presseye

Cardiff Devils netminder Ben Bowns stops a shot from Belfast Giants centre Brian Ward during Sunday afternoon's game at the SSE Arena (William Cherry/Presseye)

Cardiff Devils netminder Ben Bowns stops a shot from Belfast Giants centre Brian Ward during Sunday afternoon's game at the SSE Arena (William Cherry/Presseye)

William Cherry/Presseye

Belfast Giants winger Liam Morgan and Cardiff Devils winger Blair Riley drop the gloves during Sunday's game at the SSE Arena (William Cherry/Presseye)

Exactly the same as a night prior, it took a powerplay goal and shutout from one netminder to decide the game at the SSE Arena, only this time it went against the Belfast Giants.

Only a day after shutting out the Cardiff Devils 1-0, the Welsh side got their revenge as Joey Haddad's powerplay strike and a 29-save shutout from Ben Bowns earned them a 1-0 win in Sunday's second game of the doubleheader.

Haddad got the game-winner at 17:43 of the opening period, the Devils winger snapping one in from the right circle past Shane Owen, whose protests that he had been interfered with by Matthew Myers in the build-up were turned away by a video review.

After their special teams were what won them the game on Saturday, unfortunately for Belfast it was what cost them the game this time, the penalty kill giving up the game-winning goal in running 2-for-3, while the powerplay was 0-for-4.

The hosts passed up a glorious opportunity to tie it up in the third period too when Masi Marjamaki took a major for checking David Goodwin to the head, but despite spending three consecutive minutes in the Cardiff zone, they were unable to find a way past Bowns.

All the drama came late, however, with Bowns making a simply sensational point-blank save from Ben Lake to keep his side ahead, then Patrick Mullen rang the iron inside the last minute and the Giants couldn't force home the puck at the crease, allowing the visitors to hold out for the narrowest of wins.

Owen backed up his clean sheet from Saturday with another excellent 19-save display, but that - plus their anemic powerplay - wasn't enough to prevent Adam Keefe's side falling to 24-15-2 on the season and split the weekend with their title rivals.

"This is play-off hockey, it's not easy to score. One powerplay apiece settled the weekend," lamented head coach Keefe.

"We knew that would be the battle going into tonight's game, to score five-on-five. We wanted to make sure we did that and we didn't. Obviously conceding that powerplay goal puts us behind and we couldn't chase the game."

It's the third time this season - the second at home - that the Giants have been shutout by the Devils and it leaves them still battling to make up ground in the title race after reducing the gap on Saturday night.

There was even time for winger Liam Morgan to get the crowd on their feet when he dropped the gloves with former Belfast captain Blair Riley, the pair battling to a stalemate at centre ice in the first period, bringing the capacity crowd to its feet at the SSE Arena.

"It was in the d-zone, he turned into me and wasn't happy I was in his way. He made that very clear in front of the bench and it sorta just happened," explained Morgan.

"It was a good fight. Didn't get beat up too bad, so I'll take that."

The Giants' powerplay woes would start early when they couldn't capitalise on a first period powerplay when Sam Duggan was sat for delay of game before Morgan and Riley had their tilt at centre ice, which ended when the Belfast man had his jersey pulled over his head.

Where Belfast couldn't make the most of their extra man, the Devils could. Elgin Pearce was sent to the box for holding and it was on the powerplay that Haddad forged the visitors ahead.

Both sides then needed to make kills, the Devils playing out an interference call on Haddad split across the first intermission and the Giants seeing out Matt Pelech's late hit minor.

Owen was by far the busier of the two netminders in the middle frame, the Belfast man turning away several good shots from the visitors, while Myers had a big one-on-one chance after a brilliant stretch pass that he fired over the cage.

But the final period would be one of wasted powerplay opportunities for the Giants, who first saw a Shaone Morrisonn roughing call pass them by before they failed to capitalise on Marjamaki's major for checking Goodwin to the head, the powerplay ending early when Brian Ward headed off for tripping.

And it was with Owen pulled for the extra skater with 1:34 remaining that all the excitement took place, Bowns making a phenomenal block to deny Lake before somehow the puck didn't cross the line when Mullen's shot pinged off the post and sat in the crease.

It's a weekend that likely doesn't help either team, but the Giants in particular. A great opportunity has passed them by, and that might hurt them more mentally than in the table.

"Nothing changes. We're still chasing Cardiff, we're a ways back against them but we still have a game left (against them). There's still a lot of hockey to be played here," claimed Keefe.

"I think we were further back this time last year, so the only difference being there's a four-horse race this year rather than two-horse. We're still right in this so we need to keep going, focus on our own game and find consistency."

The Giants take a week's break for Great Britain's Olympic qualifiers next weekend, returning to action on Saturday February 15 against the Manchester Storm at the SSE Arena.

Belfast Telegraph