Lake torments former side as Giants hit five in a row by dousing Blaze
Belfast Giants 4-1 Coventry Blaze
Even if Ben Lake won't admit it himself, his celebration after scoring the Belfast Giants' opener against his former side the Coventry Blaze spoke volumes.
With a goal - his seventh of the season - and an assist in the Giants' 4-1 win over the Blaze at the SSE Arena, the Team GB winger had one of his best nights since joining Belfast so far.
His finish for the Giants' opener, at just 13:28, was emphatic, snapping home the one-timer after Lewis Hook's reverse drop pass into the slot for the go-ahead goal, which he celebrated with gusto.
It was also Lake who added the assist for the final goal of the night as he was the catalyst for Curtis Hamilton's shorthanded strike 7:35 into the final period, effecting the turnover in neutral ice and dropping it back for the winger to slide into the empty cage.
"I'd be lying if I said no," grinned man of the match Lake when asked if playing his old side spurred him on.
"That's the first time I've played against a former team. It was a bit of a strange feeling, but I wanted to get the win that little bit more. It was a good feeling."
Lake was backed up by a strong 25-save performance from Shane Owen, who improves to 7-4-2 on the season, while Brian Ward had a goal and two assists, and Lewis Hook and Liam Morgan two assists each.
With the victory, their fifth in a row, the Giants go to 7-1-2 in the Elite League, moving up to third in the standings and maintaining their league-best win percentage as they continue to make up games.
More importantly, their offense continues to purr after their rough start to the season, hitting at least three goals for the fifth game in a row, while their penalty kill was again a strength at 4-for-4.
"It was a good performance from start to finish. We still gave up a bit too much but that's why we have O in net, I thought he was solid as well," said head coach Adam Keefe.
"Throughout the entire line-up we were solid. There's quite a few guys in the line-up battling illness, so there's a few guys not feeling great today but they didn't show it in their performance."
The Giants' special teams were called upon early too, Jean Dupuy (interference) and Matt Pelech (kneeing) leaving them shorthanded inside the opening eight minutes, but the penalty kill ran strong.
That was after Blaze netminder Jamie Phillips - 28 saves - came up with a couple of good early stops to deny Lake twice in quick succession, and then Jordan Smotherman tested the netminder on the odd man rush.
But the momentum from the Giants' strong start carried through, and it allowed the hosts to forge ahead at 13:28 through Lake.
The powerplay got its first chance to shine when Johnny Curran was called for interference, but the Giants couldn't capitalise with the extra man stretched across the first intermission.
But their desire to keep up that heated mentality that was exhibited in Fife once again shone through Bobby Farnham, the winger eager to drop gloves with David Broll when he took a cheap shot at Jean Dupuy at a face-off.
The Giants doubled their lead 7:44 into the second period, though, once again Hook the creator by taking the puck to the paint and sending it across the crease for Brian Ward to finish for 2-0.
The two-goal lead lasted just 1:43 as the Blaze pulled it back to a 2-1 game, Dillon Eichstadt ripping the shot from the blue-line that Matt Pohlkamp redirected five-hole on Owen at 9:27 of the middle frame.
But Belfast would hold their two-goal lead going into the final period, Jordan Smotherman lurking at the doorstep to deposit a rebound at 16:17 after Brian Ward had tipped a Patrick Mullen shot on goal.
A late interference call in the second period on Pelech - his 19th of the season - brought the Giants' penalty kill unit back onto the ice, but they came through again.
And the next time the Belfast kill unit were called onto the ice, when Paul Swindlehurst headed off for an interference minor in the third, Lake was there to put it on a plate for Hamilton's finish to seal the deal.
"We feel like we controlled most of the game, but at 2-1 you're never home and away. Once it got to 4-1 we felt we were comfortable and we did a good job seeing it out," said Lake.
At 0-for-1, head coach Adam Keefe won't be overly concerned by the powerplay, which never really got a chance to get going, but their even-strength display was more than enough.
"Thought that third period display was great too. It's something we've been talking about a lot, having better third periods and being able to put the game away," added Keefe.
"They did that today. We didn't give them many looks and they had that one powerplay we shut them down on.
"Now we need to check it and focus on tomorrow. We need to be our best or put in an ugly road performance. That's a good Coventry side over there. They're dangerous."
The Giants head on the road for the reverse fixture of their home-away double-header against the Blaze on Sunday night aiming to make it six-in-a-row.
Belfast Telegraph Digital