Nottingham Panthers tamed as Belfast Giants get off to a flyer
Nottingham Panthers 1-2 Belfast Giants
Derrick Walser hailed the gritty performance of his Belfast Giants team as they made a perfect start to their challenge to regain the Elite League title.
After hitting Manchester Storm for six at the Odyssey Arena on Saturday night, the Giants had to work a bit harder to see off the Nottingham Panthers yesterday.
They had to go to overtime after Chris Higgins saw his goal cancelled out by Nottingham defenceman Geoff Waugh, but it was worth it as Kris Beech struck the winner to make it a perfect weekend.
"It's been a really good start for us," said Walser.
"We've had two tough games and to come away with four points is great.
"Any time you go on the road and get two points you have to be pleased.
"You have to take into account the back-to-back games, travelling and bodies not being ready when you're only two weeks into the season."
How well matched the two teams are was reflected in the fact that the game had almost reached its halfway point before the first goal arrived.
It was the Giants who scored it and to make matters worse for the Panthers fans, two of their former players were heavily involved.
Higgins saw his shot saved by Nottingham goaltender Miika Wiikman, he and Brandon Benedict both tried to pounce on the rebound. It was Higgins who got there first to push the puck into the net at 24:41.
The Giants ran into penalty trouble, having to kill three in what remained of the second period - which they managed to do successfully.
It took Nottingham until three minutes into the third period to level matters and for the home fans the goal was worth the wait.
A slick move involving Andy Bohmbach and Brad Moran created the opportunity for Waugh and he made no mistake as the Panthers finally broke Stephen Murphy's stubborn resistance.
That goal ultimately meant that overtime would be needed to find a winner - and there was still a lot of work to be done for the Giants.
Just 35 seconds into the five-minute four-on-four period referee Dean Smith made a controversial call on Giants defenceman Jeff Mason, who was punished for a tripping offence. Normally it takes something extreme for a powerplay to be awarded in overtime, but Smith deemed it serious enough to warrant two minutes in the box, leaving a lot of room on the ice.
Nottingham did threaten, but nowhere near as much as they would have liked and they were left to rue their missed opportunity when 35 seconds after returning to full strength the Giants grabbed the winner.
Craig Peacock and Mike Forney combined and Beech knocked the puck home to secure the extra point.
"I think there was a cross-check on Jeff Mason which caused him to be out of position that was missed," said Walser.
"The referee possibly could have let the penalty go, but we killed it very well. In fact it can be quite hard to score on a four-on-three.
"We killed penalties well all night and we killed that one too. Most of our penalties came in our defensive zone and I would put that down to tiredness."