Blaze v Panthers
4 - 3
The Nottingham Panthers
The Nottingham Panthers made the short trip south to take on the Coventry Blaze on Sunday, capping off their weekend road double-header after a narrow overtime defeat in Manchester last night.
Michael Garnett started in goal for the Panthers opposite Miroslav Kopriva for the Blaze.
Nottingham gained an early powerplay (2.14) when Justin Hache was sent to the box for interference but, despite spending almost the full two minutes in the Blaze zone, they couldn't fashion a clear goalscoring opportunity and Coventry returned to full-strength unscathed.
Just after the home side returned to full-strength Ollie Betteridge almost beat Kopriva with a spin-o-rama move, after collecting a lovely pass form Perlini, but the Blaze netminder closed the five-hole to keep the score tied at zero.
Coventry went to a poweprlaty of their own when Robert Farmer was called for hooking (6.32) and Michael Garnett had to be on top his game to move from east to west to deny a one-timer from the left wing as the Panthers chalked up a successful penalty kill.
Justin Kovacs' persistence saw him draw an interference call from Ben Lake (9.21) but the Panthers' best chance would come just after the Blaze killed the penalty. Tim Billingsley pinched in from the blue-line and cut through the heart of the Blaze defence only to be denied by Kopriva as he attempted to go forehand-backhand and through the legs of the Blaze netminder.
An ill-advised slashing penalty in the offensive by Dominik Florian (12.51) was followed by a delay-of-game penalty after Kevin Noble pushed the goal off of it's moorings (14.26) and the brief 25 second five-on-three powerplay opportunity was all the Panthers needed to open the scoring, Dylan Olsen wristing one through traffic (14.51) after neat play between Kovacs & Richard to enter the zone.
Shortly after killing a penalty to Tim Billingsley (14.54) the Panthers doubled their lead. Ollie Betteridge (18.41) found himself in acres of space on the left wing and his wrist shot proved too much for Kopriva as it found a way through to give Nottingham a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Nottingham killed off a penalty, picked up late in the first period by Tim Billingsley, to start the second period but Coventry started to build some momentum, Michael Garnett forced into making a strong save through traffic.
As the game ramped up in physicality Steve Lee delivered a contender for the 'Bodyshocker Hit of the Week' as he stepped up to his man along the boards to bring the travelling contingent of Panthers Nation to their feet.
Marek Tvrdon seemed to have nothing but net to shoot at when Brett Perlini's cross-ice pass found him all alone at the top of the right wing circle but Kopriva in the Coventry goal made a larcenous glove save flying across his crease to keep the game at a two goal spread.
It was then Michael Garnett's turn to take center stage, saving from Ross Venus on the breakaway before sprawling out at the top of his crease to deny former Panthers fan favourite Alex Nikiforuk.
Coventry pulled one back on the powerplay when Mark Hurtubise (36.21) was sent to the box for slashing, Garnett making the initial save on the shot from the blueline but Ben Lake (36.41) was on hand to tuck in the rebound.
Nottingham killed off a tripping call to Jaynen Rissling (37.02) as the period wound down but the Panthers' defenceman found himself in the box once more, this time for a late hit (39.35), to leave the game finely poised heading into period three.
Coventry hit the pipes early in the third period just after the Panthers killed the remainder of Jaynen Rissling's penalty. They wouldn't enjoy the benefit of playing five-on-five for long though as Marek Tvrdon (45.25) was sent to the box for tripping and Michael Garnett had to be on top form to extend his right leg at the last moment to deny Coventry's best scoring opportunity before the Panthers returned to full strength.
The Panthers built momentum off the penalty kill and Tvrdon was once again in the thick of the action, he harrased a Blaze puck carrier into a turnover and Brett Perlini was on hand (47.36) to stab the puck past Kopriva and give Nottingham a 3-1 lead.
With Luke Pither sat in the box (53.16) on a tripping minor Coventry got themselves back into the game, Luke Ferrara (53.38) scoring off of his own rebound.
Coventry pushed hard for an equaliser but once again found Michael Garnett in sparkling form, the Panthers' netminder going old school as he stacked the pads on a cartwheel save to deby Alex Nikiforuk. However, he could do nothing when Nicolai Bryhnisveen was found in acres of space after a turnover by the Panthers in the offensive zone and his pin-point shot hit the back of the net to tie the game at three.
Nottingham picked up a too-many-men penalty inside the final minute (59.43) and whilst they killed off the 17 seconds in regulation time it took only 26 seconds of overtime for Coventry to secure the extra point. Justin Hache firing a one-timer past Michael Garnett as the Panthers fell in overtime for the second time in as many nights.