Sylvestre back with a bang for classy Giants
Belfast Giants 5 Nottingham Panthers 2
Sebastien Sylvestre announced his return with a double strike to give the Belfast Giants a thrilling 5-2 victory over the Nottingham Panthers in the first of two big weekend battles.
After missing the last two games through suspension, Sylvestre got his first when he scored an early equaliser following Brett Perlini's even earlier opener before putting the seal on the win with the fourth goal five minutes before the final buzzer.
The win moves the Giants five points behind the Cardiff Devils at the top of the Elite League table with one game more played.
The Panthers took the lead with only 64 seconds gone.
Yann Sauve shot from the blueline and a touch from Perlini took it away from Jackson Whistle.
David Rutherford was taken out on his way to goal as the Giants pushed for an equaliser, but at least that gave them a powerplay, from which they levelled up the scores just 79 seconds after going behind.
Rutherford's cross-ice pass found Sylvestre at the far post and his one-timer beat Nottingham goaltender Michael Garnett.
The early goal rush continued when the Panthers made it 2-1 just short of the four-minute mark. Tim Billingsley picked up the puck on the right inside the Giants' zone and his shot looped past Whistle.
A fight between Giants' John Kurtz and Panthers' Mathieu Gagnon, plus a boarding penalty against Blair Riley, left the teams playing four-on-four and with a little bit more space on the ice the Giants equalised.
Colin Shields found Spiro Goulakos free right in front of goal and after teasing Garnett with some nice stick control he tucked his shot into the net at 15:29.
The Giants then took the lead when Jonathan Ferland chased the puck along the boards on the left after a clearance from Matt Towe. After winning the race, he struck a powerful shot that flew high into the net over Garnett's shoulder at 31:40.
Alexander Mokshantsev then drew Darcy Murphy into a fight, which saw the Nottingham man earn a total of 19 minutes in the penalty box and put the Giants on a four-minute powerplay.
It was the Panthers who came closest to scoring though when Whistle made a mess of an attempted clearance but his blushes were spared by Goulakos.
The points were secured when the Giants scored the fourth in fortunate circumstances at 54:47. Brendan Connolly scooped the puck into the middle and it appeared to do little more than hit Sylvestre before beating Garnett.
Connolly netted the fifth seven seconds from the end when he chased down Ferland's clearance and flicked the puck in.