Panthers v Steelers
The Nottingham Panthers
2 - 3
The 'Christmas Classic' between The Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers took place inside the Motorpoint Arena on Boxing Day for the first time since 2012 on Wednesday afternoon in front of a sold-out crowd.
Michael Garnett, fresh off a shut-out in Dundee on Sunday, got the start in goal for the Panthers who welcomed Alex Bolduc and Marek Tvrdon back to the line-up, after their withdrawals seven minutes into last Saturday's game against Milton Keynes.
Aaron Johnson was called for tripping (3.22) to send the Panthers to an early first period powerplay but they found Jackson Whistle at the top of his game, the Steelers' netminder turning aside any shots that made it through to him as Sheffield killed off the penalty.
Billingsley's shot from the right wing proved too hot to handle for Whistle but he found the puck before the defenceman turned forward and managed to cover it up for a face-off. Nottingham once again pushed for the first goal when Ollie Betteridge was denied not once but twice, first with the blocker then with the body, by Whistle.
Sheffield started to come into the game as it past the halfway mark, Garnett having to be alert to save and hold from Eberle as he shot from the left wing.
Mark Hurtubise had a great chance to put the Panthers into the lead but his one-timer from the slot was met with the right pad of Whistle and the puck slid away to safety.
Garnett was twice more pressed into action inside the final two minutes, making a nice glove save through some heavy traffic before turning the Steelers aside as they broke in two-on-one to close out the period.
Nottingham came out in the second throwing hits all over the ice. Billingsley and Bolduc landing two in quick succession in the corner behind Jackson Whistle's goal as they looked to take a foothold in the game. Shots started to reign in from the point as well, Lee testing the Steelers' netminder from out wide and as the rebound worked it's way to Dylan Olsen his heavy slapshot from the point was deflected home by Alex Guptill (24.53), parked in the slot, to give The Nottingham Panthers the lead.
Guptill has a chance to double the Panthers' lead when he fashioned himself a shooting opportunity as he broke in with Justin Kovacs but his effort was just a little too high and the Steelers escaped unscathed.
The Panthers killed a penalty to Tommy Hughes (33.22) and as play went down the other end a goalmouth scramble to end all goalmouth scrambles took place around Whistle's net. Somehow the puck eluding the twine, with Guptill in the thick of things once again, as being cleared to safety.
Dylan Olsen's active stick broke up a partial breakaway for the Steelers and the period ended with the home side holding a one goal lead.
Sheffield came out all guns blazing in the third period as they looked to tie the game, Michael Garnett making a save with his left pad inside the first minute before denying Westerling as he broke in all alone. Sheffield's pressure told eventually when Jonathan Phillips tied the game (45.51) after a quick review.
Nottingham responded well to Sheffield tying the game, Alex Guptill ringing a backhand effort off the iron and then Jaynen Rissling drew a powerplay after his stick was slashed out of his hands. Despite good zone time the Panthers couldn't find the breakthrough they desired and when Alex Guptill was robbed by the glove hand of Whistle it started to look like one of those games for the home side.
That was until Mark Hurtubise broke in on Whistle and after his initial shot was saved he fed Jaynen Rissling, who had pinched down from the blue line, and he put the home side back into the lead. His shot going high over the glove of Whistle and into the back of the Steelers goal.
Just over two minutes later Sheffield tied the game, Mark Matheson striking on the powerplay to send the game to overtime.
Three-on-three overtime couldn't separate the sides, despite the Panthers having two minutes of four-on-three powerplay time, and the game went to a shootout.
It was the away side who emerged victorious in the shootut by a 2-1 scoreline, securing the extra point heading into tomorrow night's return fixture in Sheffield.