No way back for Belfast Giants after an early Panthers mauling
Notingham Panthers 6-3 Belfast Giants
A nightmare first period proved costly for the Belfast Giants as they were hit for six by the Nottingham Panthers, leaving them fifth in the Elite League table.
After conceding the opening goal with just 1:45 on the clock, there were three more unanswered goals within the first 16 minutes of the game, giving the Giants - who were missing goaltender Stephen Murphy, defencemen Jim Vandermeeer, Cole Jarrett and Kevin Raine as well as forward Dustin Johner - a mountain to climb.
Even though there was much more of a jump in their play after coach Adam Keefe had the chance to rally his troops during the break, when the Panthers struck again six minutes into the second period there was simply no way back.
Brendan Connolly did get the Giants on the mark five minutes before the end of the second period, but the Panthers then struck a sixth and two late Giants goals were little more than consolation efforts.
The Panthers were on top pretty much from the off and wasted no time in making the early pressure count when Robert Farmer fed the puck to Josh Shalla, he, in turn, found Brett Perlini and his shot flew into the top corner of the net past Jackson Whistle.
Evan Mosey sent defenceman Tim Billingsley on a break that went the length of the ice before he too went top corner on Whistle to double the lead at 7:41.
The Panthers really took control of the game when they score two more goals in little over two minutes, first Mark Derlago scoring at 13:01 after being set up by Yann Sauve and then Sauve himself made it 4-0 when he deflected Perlini's shot into the net at 15:17.
The Giants looked more awake at the start of the second period and had some pressure in the Nottingham zone, but they were rocked when Mosey hit the Panthers fifth at 25:51, sweeping up the rebound after Whistle had stopped Derlago's initial effort.
The Giants did finally get onto the scoresheet when Sebastien Sylvestre and John Kurtz set up Connolly to score at 35:04, but any optimism that may have brought was quickly extinguished when Mosey deflected the puck over Whistle and into the net at 37:19 - the goal only deemed legal by the officials after a video review.
With the points effectively in the bag the Panthers eased off slightly in the third period and even when the Giants struck with two late goals there wasn't much of a scare.
Spiro Goulakos and Colin Shields created the chance for Sylvestre to rip a first-time shot past Panthers goaltender Patrick Galbraith at 54:03 and as the clock ticked down, with the Giants on a powerplay, Connolly and Sylvestre linked before the puck came to Jonathan Ferland and he scored his third goal of the weekend with just a single second left on the clock.
On Saturday night the Giants booked their place in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals with a 5-0 win at home to the Fife Flyers.