Table-topping Giants blunt Steelers for 'best victory'
Sheffield Steelers 2-3 Belfast Giants
Adam Keefe praised his Belfast Giants team for giving their 'most complete performance of the season' as they claimed a 3-2 victory over the Sheffield Steelers.
Goals from Colin Shields, Brendan Connolly and Darcy Murphy gave the Giants a third win of the season in Sheffield and it was also enough to give them the outright lead at the top of the league.
They are now two points clear of the Nottingham Panthers - who lost at the Guildford Flames - and the Cardiff Devils after winning for the sixth time in seven matches.
"I think this was our most complete performance of the season," said Keefe.
"I could look back at other games and find similar performances, but I think this one tops the lot.
"We were together for the full 60 minutes and it was nice to pull it off and get the win."
After the last meeting between the teams this was expected to be a feisty affair and four minutes in an altercation between Sebastien Sylvestre and former Giants David Phillips saw both sent to the box.
That actually seemed to settle the game down and six minutes later the Giants took the lead.
Sylvestre was back on the ice, setting up Shields and his slapshot from the ring wing flew across Sheffield goaltender Ervins Mustukovs and into the net at 10:40.
The teams were reduced to four players each after Blair Riley was punished for tripping and Sheffield's Andreas Jamtin joined him in the box for making more of the contact than there was.
That meant more space on the ice and after breaking up a Giants attack Scott Aarssen set up Colton Fretter and he slammed a shot into the top corner of Jackson Whistle's goal five minutes before the end of the first period.
Scoring chances were at a premium in the second period, with both teams unable to convert powerplay opportunities, before the Giants regained the lead on the 34 minute mark.
Mustukovs saved the initial effort, but when the rebound fell right in front of Connolly he had a simple task in knocking the puck into the net.
Whistle was called into action a couple of times early in the third period to keep the Giants in front, with one particularity good save from Fretter, before the lead was extended with eight minutes to go.
Blair Riley and David Rutherford created the chance, finding Murphy on his own behind the Sheffield defence and he beat Mustukovs with a neat backhand finish.
A hooking call against Cole Jarrett put Sheffield on a powerplay just 35 seconds later, yet it was the Giants who had the best chance when Riley's shot was saved.
The Steelers weren't finished though. Mark Matheson sent former Giant Robert Dowd down the right and he sent a low shot past Whistle with five and a half minutes left on the clock.
Sheffield then pulled Mustukovs with a full 95 seconds to go and they ended up with six skaters against four when Jonathan Ferland sent to the box 44 seconds from the end, but the Giants held firm to win the game.