Belfast Telegraph

Late rally not enough as Giants fall

Belfast Giants 3 Nottingham Panthers 6

By Stuart McKinley

A third-period rally from the Belfast Giants wasn't enough to prevent them crashing to a heavy defeat on the opening night of their Elite League campaign.

The Nottingham Panthers skated off with the points thanks to a four-goal salvo in the second period, which helped them to a 6-3 victory and brought the Giants' winning start to the season shuddering to a halt.

The Panthers scored a fifth early in the third period before Josh Roach and Dustin Johner gave the Giants a small glimmer of hope, but they couldn't repeat their comeback victory from Saturday against Glasgow Clan and will now aim to get back on track against the Fife Flyers this weekend.

The Giants had the slight edge in the first period, with Roach having the best chance while at the other end Stephen Murphy - starting in favour of Tyler Beskorowany - comfortably dealt with everything the Panthers had to throw at him.

It was very different in the second period as Murphy had to scoop the puck out of the net four times.

The Panthers struck just 42 seconds after the restart when Luke Pither fired home through a crowd with Murphy partially unsighted by his own defence.

The Giants rang the pipes before Nottingham doubled their lead at 31:29, with Pither again heavily involved.

He won the puck behind the Giants goal and fed Kevin Henderson in front and he finished from just outside the crease.

The Panthers took control of the game when they made it 3-0 at 33:47.

Jaynen Rissling collected the puck from Justin Kovacs and skated superbly round the Giants defence before beating Murphy to his left.

David Rutherford was denied on a one-on-one during a powerplay which was sandwiched in between the Panthers' third goal and the fourth - which came at 37:37. Ollie Betteridge went behind the net to win the puck and after skating out in front he swept it past Murphy.

After Patrick Dwyer was denied as he tried to respond, things got even worse for the Giants five minutes into the third period when Kovacs capitalised on a defence that was all at sea to make it 5-0.

A powerplay opportunity sparked something of a revival from the Giants at 47:56. Alex Guptill was sent to the box for a tripping offence and that allowed debutant Hunter Bishop to link with Kyle Baun and Roach's finish for his first Giants goal was so strong that his stick snapped in two.

Another powerplay led to a second Giants goal five minutes later.

This time Pither was in the box and after Dwyer set up Baun his shot was saved but Johner sent the loose puck into an unguarded net.

Any slim comeback hopes were killed off with two minutes to go when Giants captain Blair Riley inadvertently sent the puck into his own net as he tried to defend, with Kovacs being credited as the last Panthers player to get a touch.

Johner scored his second of the night with 89 seconds to go when a blocked shot fell right into his path, but it was far too little and much too late to have an impact on the outcome of the game.

Belfast Telegraph

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