Belfast Telegraph

Giants' offense goes cold as Panthers take second win from Nottingham double-header

Nottingham Panthers 2-0 Belfast Giants

Brian Ward battles against the Nottingham Panthers (William Cherry/Presseye)
Brian Ward battles against the Nottingham Panthers (William Cherry/Presseye)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

For the second night in a row the Belfast Giants couldn't get anything to spark in front of net and they paid once more.

After managing only the one goal in Saturday's defeat to the Nottingham Panthers, the Giants fared even worse in being shut-out by a 25-save performance from netminder Kevin Carr.

In the end, it was Mark Matheson’s blue-line strike 10:48 into the second period that decided it, the Nottingham defenceman firing past Giants backstop Shane Owen for the game-winner.

Sam Herr added an empty-netter with 30 seconds remaining to put the seal on the victory, with the Belfast forwards unable to back up a sublime netminding performance from Owen, who made 18 saves at the other end in taking the loss.

With the back-to-back losses, the Giants drop to 8-3-2 in the Elite League and have fallen out of a tie for top spot in the standings, with their winning momentum well and truly shattered by this weekend.

While the defence was much improved from the previous night, the offense was short on creativity, with just one goal scored on a 5-on-3 powerplay - which was actually a 6-on-3 with Owen pulled for an extra skater at the time - across the two games as bad as it sounds.

The tame loss on Saturday night had clearly hurt Adam Keefe's side, though, and they came out fighting in the first period - literally.

It was the visitors' two likeliest suspects involved too, captain Matt Pelech the first to drop the gloves, tussling with Panthers enforcer Gui Lepine, before Bobby Farnham went blow for blow with Joshua Tetlow behind the Nottingham net.

In between that the Giants once again had to roll out their special teams when new man Ryan Lowney was called for holding at just 3:57, however the kill unit came through to play it out.

Chances, however, were at a premium. The Panthers' dominance was reflected in the rather one-sided shot count of 11-5 at the first intermission, with Owen the busier of the two backstops.

Having barely been tested in the first period, the Giants began peppering Carr with long-range shots to no avail, while Liam Morgan was at the forefront of the Giants' offensive forays in the second period, leading the way with a couple of shots.

But it was the Panthers who pulled ahead at 10:28 of the middle frame, however, Mark Matheson firing the shot from the blue-line that went all the way through traffic and found the twine for 1-0.

Both sides had powerplay opportunities early in the third period as Ben Lake headed off for kneeing for the Giants and then Perlini sat for slashing for the Panthers, however neither could make a breakthrough.

Indeed, the best chance of either fell to Robert Lachowicz on a short-handed breakaway for the Panthers, the Brit trying to beat Owen backhanded but finding the Belfast netminder impossible to get past.

But the Panthers were good value for their win to complete the four-point weekend, and it was perhaps no better summed up by Adam Deutsch's superb block in the final minute of play.

Jordan Smotherman thought he had a sure-fire leveller when a rebound dropped right to his stick in his left circle, only for defenceman Deutsch to make an incredible diving block to deny him.

That allowed Herr to round things off with the empty-netter at 19:30 of the final period, the Nottingham skipper sliding the puck between Kevin Raine's legs and into the vacated cage for 2-0.

Winning streak well and truly over, back to the drawing board for Belfast, with plenty of questions rearing their head yet again.

The Giants' penalty kill ran at 2-for-2 for the second night in a row, with the powerplay unit unsuccessful in its only appearance on the ice, going 1-for-5 on the weekend.

The Giants are back in action when they welcome the Dundee Stars to the SSE Arena on Saturday for their only home game of the month.

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