Elite League: Belfast Giants go top with dramatic overtime victory over Cardiff
Belfast Giants moved to the top of the Elite League table with a dramatic 2-1 overtime victory over Cardiff Devils.
Curtis Leonard claimed the winning goal as he forced the puck between the gloves of visiting netminder Ben Bowns and narrowly over the line.
The goal, which was only given after a lengthy video review, means the Giants replace Cardiff at the top with a second consecutive win over them.
Blair Riley opened the scoring for the Giants 13 minutes from time.
Joey Martin equalised for the visitors four minutes later to take the game into overtime.
The second game between the sides in this table-topping double-header started with the same level of intensity witnessed the previous evening at the SSE Arena.
Adam Keefe's side failed to take advantage of two early power plays, although David Rutherford came close to breaking the deadlock, hitting the pipes.
At the other end, Tyler Beskorowany made a fine save to keep out a probing Evan Mosey effort and an even better deflection to repel Joey Martin's close-range effort 15 minutes into the contest.
An intense opening period ended with the Giants killing a penalty on Josh Roach for tripping. Tempers flared just as time elapsed into the first interval, with Cardiff's Mike Hedden and Belfast captain Blair Riley called for roughing.
The deadlock continued through the second period, Mark Louis blocking a Dustin Johner shot to deny the Giants an opening goal.
Beskorowany was equal to Cardiff's best effort, from Hedden, and so the tension cranked up a notch heading into the final period.
The opening goal came with 13 minutes left in the contest as Riley exchanged passes with Rutherford before unleashing a fierce one-timer past Bowns.
The Devils responded with a fine goal of their own, Joey Martin blasting the puck into the net to set up a fitting finale between the Elite League's two best sides.
A frantic last few minutes saw chances at both ends before the game headed into sudden death overtime.
In a tense finale, three minutes and 22 seconds into overtime, Leonard forced the puck between Bowns' pads and it just crossed the line.
Initially, it was not called a goal by the officials but, following a lengthy review of video replays, it was eventually confirmed, meaning the Giants take the two points with a 2-1 victory.
The teams are now level on points at the top of the table, with the Giants going into first place by virtue of more wins in regulation time over the season - 30 to the Devils' 29.