Giants lose valuable ground in race for title after Flames prove too hot
Guildford Flames 4 Belfast Giants 1
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 TJ 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.
The Giants were backed by an outstanding 38 stops from netminder Shane Owen.
However, they couldn't get their attack 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 that they could take advantage and be the faster team out of the blocks. When Ben Lake took a boarding call, however, they found themselves on the back foot.
The hosts' lethal powerplay proved too good for the visitors' kill unit, Jesse 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 Ben Davies struck, firing in from the right circle for 2-0 at 9:08.
Having been out-shot 21-7 in the opening period, Giants head coach Adam Keefe needed a response early in the middle frame from his men, and he got it just 2:10 in when Brian 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 agonisingly see it ping back off the post and away.
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 had to gamble in the search for something and pulled netminder Owen for the extra skater, but Guildford took full advantage of the empty net with Watters and Foster adding the final two goals to complete the victory in front of their home fans.