The Belfast Giants face a virtually impossible task if they’re to qualify for the final of the Elite League Challenge Cup after losing 5-1 to the Nottingham Panthers in the first leg of their last four clash on Wednesday night..
This was the first of four big games between the sides coming up over the next month with the return leg scheduled for the Odyssey Arena on February 26 followed by two potentially Elite League title deciding showdowns, also at the Belfast venue, in the middle of March with only two points separating the sides at the top of the table.
However the Panthers made the second of these match-ups almost irrelevant with three third period goals that broke open a tight game.
The only goal of the first period went the way of Nottingham when Matt Francis scored before David Clarke doubled that advantage early in the second stanza.
However just after the halfway point Kevin Saurette pulled the Giants to within a goal with new signing Chad Langlais getting an assist on his debut for the team after signing over the weekend.
It was still all to play for with 12 minutes remaining before Francis scored his second of the night and late strikes from Robert Lachowicz and another from Clarke completed the comprehensive victory.
The Giants will need to regroup quickly with a big league doubleheader at home against the Coventry Blaze coming up on Friday and Saturday with the Panthers taking on Braehead and Fife over the weekend.