Despite a strong start from the Nottingham Panthers, Belfast struck first as Ciaran Long and Darcy Murphy crossed the blue line on a 2 on 1. Long had Murphy as an option on his left but pulled the trigger on a wrist shot from the edge of the right circle to beat Panthers goalie Kevin Carr at 2:21. (1-0)
Returning to the lineup after missing Friday night’s game through illness, JJ Piccinich fed the puck out in front of goal from the left corner, meeting Scott Conway to double the lead at 6:13. (2-0)
Belfast looked strong on a Robbie Baillargeon hooking call at 9:35 and weathered a late Panthers short-handed breakaway, plus a follow-up effort from Baillargeon himself as he emerged from the box.
The Panthers opened their account on a power play at 14:37. As Mark Garside sat for holding (13:22), and with Giants goalie Tyler Beskorowany dispossessed of his stick, Christophe Boivin struck from close range. (2-1)
There were strong protests from the Giants bench (and indeed the SSE Arena crowd) for what was a clear cross-check in front of goal, but play resumed under a hail of boos.
The second period certainly had its share of end-to-end action, but ‘grade A’ chances were hard to find as both sides continued to wear each other down.
However, the Teal Army was treated to a sight for sore eyes at 26:27 when Darcy Murphy struck Belfast’s third (Assist: Ciaran Long, Sam Ruopp). (3-1)
The decorated forward has spent much of this season battling injury, but the deafening roar from the stands spoke volumes of the high regard held for the man dubbed ‘Darcy Dangles.’
A second-minute Ben Lake breakaway was dealt with by Carr as the Giants chipped away in search of a split series on the weekend.
Sam Ruopp and Scott Conway worked their way in close to take a hack each on Carr moments later, with a skirmish breaking out after the whistle as tempers began to rise.
Jeremy Welsh was called for a trip in the Giants zone at 51:59, and the Giants went to work in the Panthers third. A puck on net from JJ Piccinich was tipped down at the crease by David Goodwin to extend the lead at 52:45. (4-1)
The sides exchanged late power plays as Belfast’s Sam Ruopp sat for roughing at 53:26, and Nottingham’s Aaron Thow was called for hooking at 55:57, but the score remained unchanged as Adam Keefe’s side bounced back to rescue a vital two points on the weekend.
The Belfast Giants are away to Glasgow on Tuesday to face the Clan and back in action at the SSE Arena next weekend as a thrilling EIHL title race continues. The Glasgow Clan visit on Friday 1st April at 7:00pm, before the Guildford Flames return on Sunday 3rd at 4:00pm. Tickets are on sale HERE!