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League title slips further away from sorry Giants

Nottingham Panthers 4 Belfast Giants 0

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No luck: Liam Morgan’s goal was chalked off as the Belfast Giants suffered a 4-0 defeat

No luck: Liam Morgan’s goal was chalked off as the Belfast Giants suffered a 4-0 defeat

William Cherry/Presseye

No luck: Liam Morgan’s goal was chalked off as the Belfast Giants suffered a 4-0 defeat

After their eighth shut-out of the season - a team record - and one of their most abject performances of the campaign, the Belfast Giants' Elite League title hopes look as remote as ever.

All the promise of Saturday's win over the Manchester Storm was washed away in the Giants' submissive 4-0 loss to the Nottingham Panthers at the Motorpoint Arena, the visitors coming off second best in practically every facet of the game.

Adam Keefe's men were outscored by a goal in five-on-five play, conceded twice on their penalty kill - which had an off-night in running two-for-four - and even gave up a short-handed goal on their toothless zero-for-four powerplay to compound matters.

Indeed, how poorly the Giants played was reflected in that the game-winning goal came just 62 seconds in when Adam Deutsch was left completely unmarked at the back door and snapped in the one-timer from Georgs Golovkovs' excellent feed for an early Panthers lead.

Things got no better after that with the Giants two down at the first intermission thanks to Jullian Talbot's powerplay strike, and the visitors tallied just three shots in the second as Mathieu Tousignant and Dylan Malmquist piled on the misery late.

It meant the Giants fell to 25-15-2 on the season and lost ground to their rivals the Panthers in the title race.

Starting goaltender Shane Owen was chased from the game at the second intermission having made just 17 saves, with back-up Stephen Murphy contributing a further nine stops in the final frame in relief.

On the other side, Kevin Carr turned away all 27 shots he faced in keeping his second shut-out against the Giants this season, while his attack could have made it worse had Danny Fick and Malmquist again not seen shots come back off the frame of the net.

Captain Matt Pelech at least tried to spark something for the Giants at 3-0 down when he dropped the gloves with opposite skipper Guillaume Lepine, but by then it was already too little too late for Keefe's men, who even had the frustration of seeing a potential Liam Morgan goal chalked off by video review with just three minutes remaining, as if to rub salt into the wounds.

The writing had been on the wall for the Giants after just 1:02 of the first period.

Nottingham burst out of the blocks much brighter and Golovkovs executed a sensational pass to the back door for the unmarked Deutsch to tap in for 1-0.

After seeing out a pair of penalties, the below par Giants weren't so good at the third time of asking.

When Pelech flipped the puck over the boards in his own zone, the Panthers connected on their third powerplay of the period, and Talbot slammed one in from the high slot at 12:13 for 2-0.

At the other end, the Giants were not as profitable on their own powerplay when Lepine was called for slashing, and the visitors headed in at the first intermission following a heated exchange between Bobby Farnham - who had been incensed by a lack of a call behind the Panthers net - and the officials.

The Giants had hoped an early roughing call on Ryan Horvat in the middle period might lead to something getting started, but instead all it led to was the Panthers furthering their lead as Tousignant smashed in a one-timer from the right circle for the short-handed tally to make it 3-0 at 4:20.

Another powerplay passed the Giants by when Sam Herr's holding minor went unpunished before Pelech and Lepine dropped the gloves at centre ice, battling to a fairly even conclusion.

It also yielded a slashing call on the former to put the Giants on the kill again, and it was with the man advantage that the Panthers rounded off the scoring at 15:51 of the second period when Malmquist cut in from the angle and roofed the puck shortside on Owen for the hosts' fourth of the afternoon.

Keefe switched out Owen for Murphy in order to give their starter a period off having been given little support from his defencemen, with the Scot making one big pad save to deny Jordan Kelsall in a period where he was left relatively untroubled.

Carr's shut-out bid had one late scare when Morgan's shot came back off the post, sending the officials to the box to review it, but the video angles confirmed the puck had not crossed the line, ensuring the goalie would finish the game unbeaten and ending a dismal night for the Giants.

Belfast Telegraph