Sorry Giants fail to close gap on rivals in title race
Belfast Giants 0-4 Nottingham Panthers
The Belfast Giants made the worst possible start to what could be a pivotal weekend in the Elite League title race by crashing to a 4-0 defeat at home to the Nottingham Panthers.
Their hopes of retaining their crown have taken another hit after they failed to take advantage of their match in hand over league leaders Braehead Clan and the back-to-back games in a home and away double-header against the Fife Flyers, starting at the Odyssey Arena tonight, are now even more important than they already were.
The task now is to close a five-point gap on the Clan in the 17 games that remain.
After a solid start from the Giants, during which Kevin Westgarth and the returning Mark Garside both tested Nottingham goaltender Craig Kowalski - who himself is just back after an injury lay-off - the momentum was extinguished when the Panthers took the lead just before the midway point of the first period.
Robert Farmer sent Guillaume Doucet through and he fired high into the net past Carsen Chubak.
Nottingham proceeded to score two more goals in the space of nine minutes to take control of the game before the first break.
Less than two minutes after the first goal, it was the same combination again after Chubak's defence deserted him.
Evan Cheverie and Cody Brookwell both went close for the Giants, but it was the Panthers who scored again and it was 3-0 two minutes before the end of the first period when Colby Choen struck on the powerplay after Brookwell had been punished for hooking.
The Giants mounted an onslaught towards the Panthers goal during the second period, helped by being given five powerplay opportunities, but despite out-shooting the Panthers 16-6 in that 20 minutes, they failed to find a way past Kowalski.
Benedict, Chris Lawrence (twice) and Mike Berube all spent time in the penalty box, with even a five-on-three in favour of the Giants, but the Panthers held firm through it all.
Giants captain Adam Keefe took on Greg Jacina in an attempt to at least swing the momentum, but that failed as that ended up being the end of his night.
Nottingham finished as well as they started when Doucet returned the favour by setting up Farmer with just four minutes to go to seal the victory.