Mark McCutcheon was an instant hit with Belfast Giants fans, scoring after just 32 seconds of his home debut.
The American forward gave his side a dream start in the first clear chance of a keenly contested pre-season game.
Brent Walton, one of Cardiff's many new faces, equalised five minutes later but captain Adam Keefe restored Belfast's lead as they earned a 2-1 success.
All the goals came in the first period and some very physical exchanges followed during the rest of the game.
Kevin Saurette set up McCutcheon's opening goal and after Walton's equaliser, Keefe notched what turned out to be the winning goal.
Thereafter, the Giants then got sucked into a very physical and, at times, brutal 20 minutes.
Both Gareth Roberts and Dave Phillips were handed five-minute penalties for fighting with opponents while Keefe was ejected for getting involved in a multi-player brawl which followed a late hit by Darryl Lloyd.
Cardiff's Jesse Mycham was also ejected late in the second period for charging and fighting in a game that was 'friendly' in billing only.
The third period continued in a similar vein, interrupted by numerous penalties, with Cardiff also keeping Stephen Murphy busy in the Giants goal.
The Elite League champions, who have seen record season ticket sales in excess of 1,500 fans over the summer, have retained the bulk of the squad that won the title last season and so look well set to mount a strong defence of the title.
Cardiff, after a disappointing ninth place finish in the table last campaign, are in a transitional phase, entering a new era under the ownership of a Canadian consortium which includes former Giants general manager Todd Kelman as their new managing director.
The Giants will face the Devils again on Sunday night in another pre-season match, this time in Cardiff.