Kyle Baun leads Belfast Giants to statement victory at Cardiff Devils
Cardiff Devils 1-8 Belfast Giants
FOUR goals from winger Kyle Baun led the league-leading Belfast Giants to an emphatic 8-1 win over the Cardiff Devils at Ice Arena Wales, their seventh in a row.
Adam Keefe's men blew aside the Elite League's defending champions to extend their lead at the top of the standings to four points and send out a real message to the rest of the league as they dismantled the Devils in their own building.
Establishing the lead through their outstanding powerplay in the second period, there was no let-up from the Giants as they made it 16 wins from their last 18 games, and nine from 10 on their lengthy road trip.
Prior to the game, it looked like it could be a tight affair with a meeting between two of the league's best netminders in Tyler Beskorowany and Ben Bowns, but while Beskorowany was again excellent for Belfast, it wasn't to be a good night for his opposite number.
Picking up on where they left off from Nottingham the night before, the Giants took the game to their hosts early on and they were rewarded when they grabbed two goals inside the first five minutes to seize the early advantage.
Lewis Hook went close, before Kyle Baun was denied by a great stick from Joey Haddad when a goal looked certain, but the breakthrough came on a four-on-four at 2:57 when Baun and Jim Vandermeer went on a two-on-one that allowed the latter to easily tap in at the back door.
The second came at 4:27, this time on the powerplay, as Patrick Dwyer made a clever move around Gleason Fournier to make the space and his pass back in front was slammed home by Baun on the one-timer.
Cardiff could have replied just before the first intermission, however Beskorowany went post to post to blank Charles Linglet at the back door after Stephen Dixon was let through by a loose pass from Hunter Bishop.
After the restart, Josh Roach hit the post with a deflected shot from the high slot for the Giants before the Devils pulled one back at 25:45, Blair Riley guilty of a turnover at the blueline which allowed Joey Martin to set up Sean Bentivoglio for a tap-in at the back door.
But any hope of a comeback was quickly quashed whenever Cardiff ran into plenty of penalty trouble, and Belfast were in no mood to let them off easily.
Two powerplay goals put them back in firm control of the game, the first coming at 32:43 when Baun notched his second of the game by going forehand-backhand to roof the puck over Bowns before Riley added a fourth at 34:19 with a snipe after Rutherford's pass back in front.
Devils captain Jake Morissette had a great chance on the backhand at the doorstep just before the second intermission, and he was then presented with a brilliant shorthanded chance at the start of the third when he went one-on-one with Beskorowany only for the netminder to stop both.
The second miss, the better of the two chances, was duly punished by the lethal Giants again on the powerplay as Baun completed his hat-trick, driving on net and beating Bowns five hole on the backhand at 40:46.
Just over two minutes later and Bowns was chased from the game as Belfast made it six, Vandermeer grabbing his second of the game at 42:59 with a slapshot that went through the netminder's five hole thanks to a good screen in front.
His replacement, Thomas Murdy, fared little better. 108 seconds later, at 44:47, the Giants had their seventh and Baun his fourth as Dwyer threw the puck back into the right circle and the winger took his time and picked his spot in the top corner.
Despite being six goals up, Beskorowany had to be alert to deny Martin and Dixon on the penalty kill before Belfast wrapped up the commanding win with an exclamation point at 56:49 when Curtis Leonard's shot was tipped in by Darcy Murphy in the slot for the eighth.
Man of the Match: #12 Kyle Baun
Belfast Telegraph Digital