The Belfast Giants defeated the Nottingham Panthers 5-4 last night in Belfast thanks to a hat-trick from James Desmarais in a man of the match display by the forward.
The win sees the Giants narrow the gap on the first placed Cardiff Devils to one point with the Belfast side having played two games more.
The Giants got off to a great start as Jim Vandermeer’s slapshot from the blueline rifled into the back of the Panthers net with only 88 seconds gone.
David Rutherford doubled the home side’s lead at 11:44 after some nice play in the Giants zone by Ryan Martinelli and Alex Foster.
Only 39 seconds later, and it was 3-0. This time Desmarais finished off a sweeping Giants move, assisted by Steve Saviano and Colin Shields.
Giants Captain Adam Keefe dropped the gloves with The Panthers’ Jeff Brown at 17:18 to the delight of the home fans inside The SSE Arena.
The middle period was a stalemate with Jackson Whistle and Jindrich Pacl in the Nottingham goal pulling off save after save to keep the score at 3-0 to the home side. Pacl was introduced to the game at 12:23.
Jeff Brown netted his 12th goal of the season when he opened the Panthers scoring at 44:12.
Then, with 10:18 remaining in the game, Desmarais scored his second of the night and the Giants fourth with a powerplay goal to extend the home side’s lead to 4-1.
The Panthers once again reduced the Giants lead to two goals when Chris Lawrence struck with 6:33 to go. However, Desmarais completed his hat-trick only 15 seconds later when his pass was deflected into the back of the Panthers net.
Robert Farmer netted the visitors third of the game at 54:45, and Brad Moran and closed the gap to one goal when Matt Carter scored on 58:19.
However, the Giants dug in and fought bravely to hold on for the win.
The Giants are in action again tonight against the Dundee Stars with face-off at 7pm.