The Stena Line Belfast Giants trail by one goal going into Monday night’s play-off quarter-final second leg following Saturday’s narrow 4-3 defeat in Nottingham.
The first period was a slow burner as both sides sized each other up with Miika Wiikman and Stephen Murphy cancelling each other out in opposing nets.
The deadlock was broken in the second period at 29:27 when Evan Mosey picked out Brad Moran to fire home from close range and give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
The Panthers’ advantage was doubled at 33:17 as Kolnik scored on the powerplay.
However, the Giants fought their way back into the contest to halve the deficit thanks to a glance finish by Mike Wilson at 33.56.
Little over two minutes later it was 2-2 as Chris Higgins tied things up with an unassisted effort at 35.57.
With 43 seconds left in the period Mike Forney completed a remarkable second period, firing past Wiikman at his near post to put the Giants 3-2 in front.
The Panthers made it 3-3 in the third period when Robert Farmer’s shot was saved and Cam Janssen was in the right place to tap in at 44:42. At 48.51, the home side regained the lead as Schultz scored off MacDonald’s rebound to give the Panthers the advantage going into Monday’s second leg at The SSE Arena, face-off 7pm.