Late comeback not enough for Belfast Giants in Nottingham
Nottingham Panthers 5 Belfast Giants 4
A three-goal salvo in the second period wasn't enough for the Belfast Giants to complete a comeback in Nottingham as Adam Keefe's side suffered their first defeat in five games.
Despite getting off to a flying start when Darcy Murphy scored after just 100 seconds, the Giants found themselves trailing 3-1 by the end of the first period.
The three Giants goals in that second period brought the score to 4-4, with Raphael Bussieres putting the Panthers 4-2 up before Colin Shields and Brendan Connolly levelled matters, but Robert Farmer's strike in the final minute of the second session ultimately won the game for Nottingham.
Injuries meant the Giants were missing Stephen Murphy, Dustin Johner and Jim Vandermeer, while Cole Jarrett served the first of a two-match suspension.
Veteran defenceman Jeff Mason was thrust into the action a day after agreeing to return for the upcoming season.
It was he who made an early impact, being involved in the move that led to the opening goal.
He linked with Matt Towe, who in turn found Murphy and he provided the finish. The goal was knocked off its moorings in the incident, but the referee was satisfied that the puck had crossed the line first.
That goal may have quietened the home crowd, but they were cheering just 42 seconds later when the Panthers struck back.
Yann Sauve and Ollie Betteridge created the chance and Robert Lachowicz sent the puck over.
By 5:41 Nottingham had scored again to turn the game around, with Evan Mosey getting the goal.
Two Giants players were then sent to the penalty box in the space of 24 seconds - the first a bench minor for having too many men on the ice, served by Sebastien Sylvestre, and the second after a kneeing offence by Spiro Goulakos - giving Nottingham a five-on-three powerplay, and it was an opportunity they didn't pass up as David Clarke scored at 10:19.
The Giants had chances to cut the lead during the rest of the first period before really putting the pressure on early in the second.
It wasn't until midway through the second period, however, that Sylvestre did haul the Giants back into the game when he finished off a move involving Connolly and Jonathan Ferland.
Bussieres did restore the three-goal lead at 23:04, but that didn't stop the Giants' momentum and they struck twice inside three minutes to level the scoreline.
First, Shields scored at 35:37 just a few seconds before a powerplay was about to elapse, and Connolly equalised at 38:12.
That goal looked like it had set up an exciting final period, but there was still time in the second for Farmer to rattle home a great shot from distance to score what turned out to be the winning goal 41 seconds before the end of the period.