Giants revival up in Flames as Guildford soar to lead
Guildford Flame 5-3 Belfast Giants
A stirring comeback by the Belfast Giants fell just short as they were shot down in flames in Guildford yesterday.
In a game crammed with talking points, the Giants, who have now been overtaken at the top of the Elite League by the Nottingham Panthers, fell behind in the opening minute to a Brett Ferguson goal.
By the 32nd minute Guildford were 5-0 ahead and seemingly out of sight.
Giants coach Adam Keefe's words during the second break obviously had an impact as his team rallied strongly and scored three times in 11 minutes to put the frighteners on the Flames.
Goaltender Jackson Whistle was pulled in the final couple of minutes, but instead of goals providing the late drama, a fight involving a number of players ensued in the last seconds as Guildford held on for the win.
The Flames set the tone for their performance right from the start when Liam Stewart and Calle Ackered combined to set up Ferguson and his shot left Whistle on the ice as the puck flew into the net with just 59 seconds gone.
The Giants ran into penalty trouble, giving the Flames a five-on-three as Spiro Goulakos was followed to the box by Jim Vandermeer.
Six seconds before Goulakos was due to return to the ice, Ackered collected the puck and fired it between Whistle's pad to make it 2-0 at 7:09.
The Flames were well on top at this stage and with just over three minutes of the second period played they had doubled their lead.
Ferguson's pass split the Giants' defence and gave Rhett Rachinski a simple tap-in for the third at 22:56 and Ferguson scored the fourth himself when he turned with the puck on the edge of the crease and beat Whistle at 23:04.
The Flames made it 5-0 when Geoff Walker slammed home a great shot on a breakaway at 31:58 and things got worse for the Giants when Goulakos was punished for a check to the head a couple of minutes later - earning him a 10-minute misconduct penalty and a potential suspension.
The Giants weren't about to throw the towel in, but the frustration for Keefe will be that his team didn't perform for 60 minutes like they did in the last 20.
Three minutes into the third period Darcy Murphy sparked a revival when he snapped up the chance after Guildford's defence failed to clear their zone. Brendan Connolly brought it back to 5-2 at 49:01, just eight seconds into a power play, with a shot from the blue line that flew through a crowd of bodies.
The belief that the Giants could pull the game out of the fire increased when David Rutherford made it 5-3 with six minutes to go, finishing off good work from Sebastien Sylvestre and Kevin Raine to end a move that started behind the Giants' own goal.
A full two minutes remained on the clock when Whistle was initially pulled in favour of the extra skater, was back on the ice and then off again when Brennan Yadlowski made a dangerous check by the board four seconds from the end, sparking a melee.