Despite Greg Printz giving them the lead midway through the second period and Tyler Beskorowany turning in a stellar performance in goal, Sebastian Repo on the powerplay and then Brayden Burke’s third period game winner earned the hosts the victory and the three points, with Repo adding a late empty-netter to ensure the win.
The Giants started on the front foot and dominated the early exchanges, with Elijiah Barriga firing over with the first look at goal, but Lukko were always dangerous and Tyler Beskorowany had to be alert to freeze the puck in the crease as the home side swarmed.
Both sides managed to kill off their first penalties of the game - which, under CHL rules, last for the full two minutes regardless of whether a goal is scored - as Davey Phillips sat for tripping and Linus Nyman headed off for holding shortly after he nearly tipped in Ponthus Westerholm’s driven pass to the crease.
The best chance of the opening frame fell to Tuukka Tieksola as a lucky bounce along the boards saw him given a one-on-one look at Beskorowany, only for the Giants netminder to make the save, although there was concern late in the period as Miles Gendron shipped a heavy hit along the boards and headed to the locker room early.
Chances were plentiful early in the second period as Travis Brown nearly beat Lebedeff shortside after a nice skate down the wing, while Lukko captain Julius Mattila got a nice redirect on a shot that hit the outside of the post and stayed wide.
It looked like either side could have taken the lead on respective rebounds shortly after, Quinn Preston denied by the pad of Lebedeff in the slot and then Gabriel Fontaine shooting wide with Beskorowany beaten, while the Giants couldn’t score on a hooking call against Matthew Abt.
But the goal would come for the Giants and it was no less than they deserved, Ara Nazarian driving into the right circle and, although his initial shot was saved by Lebedeff, there was Printz following in to convert the rebound for the opening goal at 29:18. (0-1)
That sparked the hosts into life, though, and they wouldn’t take long to tie things up heading into the second intermission as they took advantage of a slashing call against Mark Garside, Beskorowany saving their skin when he denied Tieksola’s one-timer again, but when Sebastian Repo latched onto a loose puck in the slot, there was nothing the netminder could do to prevent the Finn from tying it up at 33:34. (1-1)
Belfast were able to play out an early slashing call against Nazarian to start the period on a high, but they would fall behind at 45:38, Jacob Friend caught in possession as he tried to skate out of the zone and goal scorer Repo turned creator as he put the puck on a plate for Brayden Burke to tap in from close range. (2-1)
Beskorowany had to be big again shortly after when Nyman was set in one-on-one with the netminder as the home side started to ramp up the pressure, although Jeff Baum had a huge chance to find an equaliser when Mark Cooper reversed the puck to him in the left circle but Lebedeff got his body behind it.
The Giants threw all they had at their hosts in the dying stages and they pulled Beskorowany for the extra skater in the final couple of minutes to try and find the equaliser to force overtime, but instead Repo would skate the puck away and find the empty net with 47.2 seconds left on the clock to ensure there was no way back. (3-1)
The Stena Line Belfast Giants take to the ice in Finland again tomorrow as they face reigning CHL champions, Tappara Tampere. The men in teal are back on home ice at The SSE Arena, Belfast, Saturday 9th September, as they face Italian side HC Bolzano in their first CHL home clash. Tickets are on sale HERE!