Giants shake off struggles to record important road win in Dundee
Dundee Stars 1-4 Belfast Giants
From night to night the Belfast Giants continue to show their inconsistency, only on this occasion they reflected the positive side of things they can do.
Curtis Hamilton ended a seven-game scoring drought and Lewis Hook picked up just his second goal of the season as the Giants got back in the win column with a 4-1 victory at the Dundee Ice Arena over the Stars.
However, not for the first time this season did Belfast look like a completely different side to the one which took the ice the night before, on this occasion when they had succumbed to a 5-1 defeat in Kirkcaldy to the Fife Flyers.
In Dundee, the difference was they controlled most of the play from start to finish, unlike in fits and starts against the Flyers, and they were able to put the puck in the back of the net when the best chances fell their way.
They did need a bit of luck to do so but, given their struggles to put together a string of wins right now, Adam Keefe won't mind that Dundee netminder Alex Leclerc - 39 saves - really should have saved Liam Morgan's red line shot in the second period, nor that it was a rather ugly neutral zone giveaway that gave them their opener.
Nor will he mind that netminder Shane Owen rebounded superbly from a below par outing in Fife, making 27 saves as the Giants snap a mini two-game skid with the 4-1 triumph and get back in the win column to improve to 11-7-2 in the Elite League.
Not only that but the Giants emerge from a stretch of games that saw them play 11 of their last 13 outside of the SSE Arena having gone 7-6-0 and can now look forward to a run of five home games in their next eight before Christmas.
We've seen games like this from the Belfast Giants before, where it looks like they've turned a corner, and now the challenge for them - as, in fairness, it has been for the majority of the season - to turn this inconsistency into a string of positive displays.
Certainly this is a good benchmark from which to start for Keefe's men, who got quality play in their own zone from Owen and their defencemen, while at the other end they saw Liam Morgan net his seventh goal of the campaign and Brian Ward add his 11th in making the game safe.
Indeed, but for Drydn Dow's shot banking off the backboards and off the skate of the unfortunate Owen and in, it would have been a well-deserved shut-out for the visitors, who pick up only their second win from five games against the Stars this season.
They also had a big penalty kill, which was 3-for-3 on the night, in the third period to thank too, killing off penalties to Curtis Leonard (holding) and then a 5-on-3 with Liam Reddox (goalie interference) and Ben Lake (cross-checking) in the box simultaneously.
Belfast had taken the lead after just 7:20 when Hamilton snapped his short drought, the Stars giving away the puck in neutral ice and Ryan Lowney dishing the pass across for the winger to finish with Leclerc dragged out of position.
But out of nothing, Dow levelled when his shot missed the cage but cannoned off the backboards and off the back of Owen's skate and into the net to make it 1-1 at 11:16.
It was still the Giants who dominated the first period and they deservedly went in at the intermission 2-1 ahead when Hook bagged his strike, Liam Morgan driving the pass to the crease and the British winger there to divert it in at 14:51.
The Giants' powerplay, which was 0-for-3 on the night in 4:05 of time, failed to connect early in the second period when Colton Kroeker headed off for tripping before Lowney produced a crucial block to deny Egils Kalns' shot on a three-on-one breakaway with Justin Maylan and Jordan Cownie.
And having denied a goal at one end, Belfast struck at 12:29 of the middle period to double their lead, Morgan's shot from the red line somehow squeezing in at the near post past Leclerc for the unlikely 3-1 lead.
The first goal of the final period would be crucial and it took just 21 seconds of the third frame for the Giants to find it and ensure the points would be heading back to Belfast, centre Ward picking up the rebound from Kevin Raine's initial shot and depositing it for the 4-1 scoreline.
That didn't prevent the hosts from at least making it interesting in the dying stages, Kalns and Craig Gans both ringing the iron as they pushed for a comeback, while their powerplay couldn't operate sufficiently, even on that crucial 5-on-3.
Raine and Kalns tried to drop the gloves late in the game as the affair got heated, but in truth it was never more than a scuffle as opposed to a full fledged fight, and the Giants were able to coast home with the three-goal advantage.
The Giants are back in action when they celebrate their 20th anniversary with the visit of the Sheffield Steelers (14-9-0, 28pts, 1st) to the SSE Arena for a double-header next weekend that could be vital in the context of the season.
Belfast Telegraph Digital