Steelers hold on against Giants thanks to Pinc
Sheffield Steelers 3 - Belfast Giants 1
Sheffield Steelers goaltender Marek Pinc put up the blockers to keep the Belfast Giants down to one goal and help his team to a 3-1 win in the Sheffield Arena.
The defeat, coupled with the Cardiff Devils' victory over Coventry Blaze, leaves the Giants eight points adrift of the leaders - albeit with three games in hand.
In a whirlwind start to the game both Mike Radja and Darryl Lloyd brought saves from Sheffield goaltender Marek Pinc.
The Steelers went a little closer, with Jeff Legue rattling Stephen Murphy's pipework, but the game remained scoreless until just over six minutes from the end of the first period.
Former Giant Robert Dowd had already forced a fine save from Murphy when he was again denied by the Giants goaltender, but Levin Nelson was first to pounce on the rebound to put the puck into the net at 13:40.
Both teams were playing on the edge throughout a fiery first period and it was almost inevitable that tempers would boil.
The surprise was that it was Sheffield's Ben O'Connor and the Giants former Steeler Mike Forney who tossed off their gloves and went toe-to-toe.
The contest finished even, but the Giants did have some jump when play resumed. Forney and Craig Peacock had efforts saved by Pinc either side of the first break as the Giants pushed for an equaliser.
Towards the end of the second period the Giants broke on an odd-man rush and Kris Beech got a shot away, but again Pinc was equal to it.
Radja was again denied early in the third period before Sheffield produced a sucker punch to double their lead.
A fine passing move involving Legue and Mathieu Roy was finished by Guillaume Desbiens, leaving the Giants 2-0 down with 13 minutes to go.
The Giants responded five minutes later when Kris Beech got the tip of his stick to Mitch Ganzak's shot to deflect the puck past Pinc.
Murphy was pulled with 1:18 to go, but it was the Steelers who scored, with Cullen Eddy making it 3-1 a split second before the hooter.