The Belfast Giants made hard work of it but eventually skated away with a 3-1 victory over the Coventry Blaze at the Odyssey Arena on Friday night.
All the excitement was reserved for the final period with goals from Cody Brookwell, Craig Peacock and Davy Phillips breaking a scoreless tie and propelling the home side to an important two points.
The Giants dominated the first period in terms of possession of the puck but failed to turn early pressure into anything of substance on the scoreboard.
As the period wore on the short-benched Coventry side came more into the game and Giants netminder Carsen Chubak had to make a couple of sharp saves as a scoreless twenty minutes came to a close.
The second period followed a similar pattern with the Giants coming close through Kevin Westgarth and Colin Shields but the puck either took a deflection or just wouldn’t go in.
The period finished with sustained Giants pressure as they spent the last two minutes camped in the Blaze zone but a combination of bad luck and Coventry netminder Brian Stewart making some unorthodox stops kept the game without a goal heading into the final period.
Chubak had to make two saves inside the first 15 seconds following the restart while shorthanded Evan Cheverie almost scored the goal of the season and he pulled a series of great moves before the puck ran off his stick just as he was about to tuck it into the net.
The Giants were getting more and more frustrated before one shift from one player changed the game.
Darryl Lloyd took it upon himself to forecheck hard, finishing a series of checks and getting the crowd back into the game. It lifted the atmosphere and tempo and seconds later Brookwell’s shot from the point found its way through traffic and into the net.
When Peacock skated across the ice and fired home the second goal at 54:59 on the powerplay it looked like game over but then the Giants, to their dismay, were called for two quick penalties in succession and Justin DaCosta broke the shutout bid by Chubak with two and a half minutes to go with a 5-on-3 powerplay goal. It left the Blaze with an extra man and with the goalie pulled but allowed Phillips to find the empty netter that sealed the win.
The Giants remain fifth in the standings but closed the gap to six points of leaders Sheffield Steelers ahead of Saturday’s second game with the Blaze.