Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe described his team's capitulation against the Nottingham Panthers on Sunday as "men against boys".
The Giants were shut-out for the eighth time this campaign - a team record in a single season - in losing 4-0 at the Motorpoint Arena, with Panthers netminder Kevin Carr making 27 saves in blanking Keefe's side for the second time this season in Nottingham.
While the Giants didn't lose any ground in the Elite League title race, with league leaders the Sheffield Steelers and rivals the Cardiff Devils both losing on Sunday, it's another significant blow for the defending champions, who drop below Nottingham in the standings into fourth and having missed another opportunity to claw back some of the deficit.
It was one of the Giants' worst performances of the campaign, ending the game having been out-scored at even strength, on the penalty kill and even on their own powerplay thanks to Mathieu Tousignant's short-handed tally for the hosts in the second period.
"We just didn't turn up. We were out-worked, out-battled, out-muscled, out-coached. My team wasn't ready," moaned Keefe, whose side trail the Steelers by five points.
"That's disappointing given the magnitude of this game and the play-off atmosphere around it. We just didn't turn up and that's disappointing. It was men against boys out there."
The Giants can't afford to dwell on that as they are back in action tomorrow when they travel to the Guildford Flames (sixth, 22-16-3, 47pts) for their final trip to the Spectrum this season having split the points in their two previous meetings.
With only 12 games left in the regular season, the Giants are facing the grim reality that they can't afford many more slip-ups, particularly with a trip to the Steelers looming on Sunday afternoon, and Keefe is calling on his side to produce a response to that result in Nottingham.
"(Sunday's game) is over now and we have to find a way to get past that. There's still 12 hockey games still to be played and every single one of them has to be won," admitted the head coach.
"We can't afford an effort like tonight, not to turn up again. As I said, disappointing. We have to turn it around because we have a big game on Wednesday."