Sjogren sensational as Belfast Giants fall to home Stars defeat
Belfast Giants 2-3 Dundee Stars
Netminder Pontus Sjogren made 42 saves as he backstopped the Dundee Stars to a 3-2 victory over the Belfast Giants at the SSE Arena.
The final game of their three-game weekend, the Giants looked tired as the game went on and, although they dominated the shot count and most of the play, three clinical strikes saw the Scots over the line.
With the Cardiff Devils winning in Guildford, it means the Giants' lead at the top of the table has been cut to a point going into the new year as Swedish goalie Sjogren pulled off several incredible stops to keep the hosts out towards the end.
The game couldn't have gotten off to a better start for the Giants, who took the lead after just 3:04 when Kyle Baun delayed the pass from behind the net perfectly for Dustin Johner, who ripped home a one-timer from the slot.
Jim Vandermeer had to make a great block to break up a Stars three-on-one chance, and that led to the hosts doubling their lead at 8:18 when Blair Riley dropped a perfect cross-crease pass onto the stick of Darcy Murphy, whose redirect found the twine.
In honour of his 1000th career game, there was a video tribute to defenceman Vandermeer, who was met by a standing ovation from the crowd and from the players on the ice.
However, the joy was short-lived when Charles Corcoran struck back for the Stars at 12:34 with a wonderful solo goal, the forward stick handling around several defenders before going backhand-forehand to beat Tyler Beskorowany in the Belfast goal.
Still it was the hosts with the better chances, Mark Garside seeing a shot from the blueline get a double deflection and go just wide before David Rutherford fanned on a good chance at the backdoor after Riley's nice pass.
And the Giants would pay for their wastefulness as Dundee levelled it with 22.9 seconds of the period to go, working a powerplay nicely around the outside before Corcoran set up Brian Hart to slide in the puck with Beskorowany drawn out of the crease.
With the game tied, the Giants came out strong in the second period and Johner had a great chance to score his second when sent in behind by Baun only to fire his shot over the cage.
But from there the second period was fairly devoid of scoring chances, Johner denied again by Sjogren after getting to a rebound off the backboards first, while the most Beskorowany was troubled was a glove stop from a Fabrizio Ricci shot from the high slot.
The final period saw the Giants again come out the stronger, with Sjogren facing a lot of rubber early, but it was evident a third game in as many nights was taking its toll on the team as their play became more laboured.
However, they did produce an excellent four-minute penalty kill when Vandermeer took an abuse of official call, and Jonathan Ferland nearly found the go-ahead goal shorthanded only for Drydn Dow to stop him on the back-check.
Instead, the Stars took the lead at 51:46 after a horrible turnover from the Giants in their own defensive zone saw Corcoran and Hart link up again, the latter making no mistake with a crisp finish low past Beskorowany from the right circle.
From there on out it was all Belfast as they desperately sought the comeback goal, with Sjogren denying Riley on a three-on-one before Patrick Dwyer hit the frame of the goal from the left circle on the powerplay.
Two late chances fell the way of Darcy Murphy, who whiffed on a rebound at the backdoor, before Johner thundered a shot off the crossbar from the high slot, but the visitors held on for a backs-to-the-wall win.
Man of the Match: #87 Pontus Sjogren
Belfast Telegraph Digital