Elite League: Belfast Giants beat Nottingham Panthers 7-4

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Blair Riley scored twice as the Belfast Giants emerged victors

Three goals in the third period saw the Belfast Giants emerge 7-4 victors over Nottingham Panthers in Saturday night's Elite League game at the SSE Arena.

Colin Shields, Blair Riley and Chris Higgins were on target in the final instalment of an action-packed match.

The Giants led 3-2 after the first period but the Panthers were level at 4-4 after the second period of play.

Brandon Benedict, Jim Vandermeer, Alex Foster and Riley were the Giants' scorers in the opening two periods.

Jeff Brown grabbed a double for the visitors, with Brian McGrattan and Dan Spang also finding the net for Nottingham.

Giants get off to flying start

The Giants started the contest brightly with Benedict scoring after eight minutes, followed by Vandermeer just 31 seconds later.

The 2-0 lead lasted less than three minutes, however, as McGrattan opened the Panthers' account with a close-range finish past Jackson Whistle in the Giants' goal.

The two-goal advantage was re-established on the power play by the home side after McGrattan was called for high sticking.

Foster finished off a neat move in front of the visitors' goal to get the home fans back on their feet, but Nottingham responded once more, Brown exploiting hesitancy in the Giants' defence to make it 3-2.

Chris Higgins sees his penalty shot saved by Nottingham netminder Miika Wiikman
Chris Higgins sees his penalty shot saved by Nottingham netminder Miika Wiikman

The Panthers came out strong in the second period and equalised in the third minute after the restart as Brown scored his second of the night.

But the Giants then re-took the lead within a minute when Riley found the net, while Vandermeer nearly extended the one-goal advantage when he rattled the post when put through one-on-one with the keeper.

That appeared a costly miss as the visitors equalised for the second time in the evening, Spang with their fourth goal.

Chris Higgins was then given a chance to put the Giants back in the lead when a penalty shot was awarded to the home side after he had been sent sprawling on the ice. But he couldn't find a way past Wiikman in the Panthers' goal and the sides went into the second intermission level at 4-4.

Belfast assume control

The Giants took the lead for the third time in the evening as Shields profited from the persistence of Steve Saviano who went full stretch to knock the puck to his team-mate, who could not miss.

Riley then extended the lead to 6-4 with a well-taken unassisted effort before Chris Higgins' 'empty netter' in the closing seconds sealed the win.

For the Giants, it was a third victory in four games against the Panthers in the Elite League this season and Derrick Walser's side remain in the title hunt.

The Giants are away to Coventry Blaze on Sunday, with a 17:15 GMT face-off time.

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