Devils v Panthers
5 - 4
The Nottingham Panthers
The Nottingham Panthers made the trip to South Wales to take on the league leading Cardiff Devils on Sunday night.
Michael Garnett got the start in goal for the Panthers, after being rested for Saturday game against the Storm, opposite Ben Bowns for the Devils.
Both sides came out of the gate throwing the body at every given opportunity, Matt Pope knocking down Tommy Hughes before Alex Bolduc responded with a crunching hit in the corner.
The home side took the lead through Layne Ulmer (8.31) when his laser of a wrist shot beat Michael Garnett high on the glove side. The Panthers almost hit back on the next shift when Alex Guptill, recalled to the line-up after sitting out Saturday night's defeat as a healthy scratch, back handed a saucer pass to Alex Bolduc but he saw his on-time effort blocked away to safety.
The puck was worked from behind the Devils' goal up to the blue line and Dylan Olsen (12.48) saw his wrister through traffic elude Bowns to tie the game at one. Just two minutes later Cardiff regained the lead, Drew Schiestel (14.48) scoring in almost identical fashion to Olsen.
Luke Pither stole in behind the Devils defence and, despite being hooked from behind, found a way through Bowns with a lovely finish in tight (16.41) to tie the game at two heading into the first intermission.
Michael Garnett was pressed into action early in the second period, after a delayed start to some extremely wet ice, when Cardiff broke in down the left wing but the Panthers' netminder was equal to the task at hand.
The Panthers took the lead when Tim Billingsley sprang Chris Stewart and Luke Pither on a two-on-one breakaway, the former NHLer seeing his initial shot saved but he was on hand to backhand home the rebound (24.42) for his first goal in black and gold since joining The Nottingham Panthers.
Bowns had to be alert to deny Dylan Richard's one-timer from the slot and then Michael Garnett had to be on top of his game to deny Charles Linglet as he powered to the front of the goal.
Nottingham went to the game's first powerplay when former Panthers' forward Evan Mosey was called for abuse of an official (32.16) and Brett Perlini tipped a shot just wide of Bowns' cage before the Devils returned to full strength. When play went down the other end Garnett made a tremendous pad save on Joey Martin to keep the Panthers in the lead.
Jaynen Rissling stepped out from behind Garnett's cage and sent a beautiful stretch pass to a streaking Alex Guptill, and the league's leading scorer finished through the five-hole of Bowns with aplomb (38.18) to give The Nottingham Panthers a two goal cushion after two periods of play.
Cardiff made it one goal game early in the third, Stephen Dixon (41.38) deflecting Bryce Reddick's shot past Michael Garnett. The Panthers looked to hit back instantly when Chris Stewart feathered a pass over to Luke Pither on a two-on-one only for the forward to be robbed by a sprawling Bowns.
The Devils tied the game on Ulmer's second of the night as he beat Garnett from the tightest of angles (47.19) after a turnover in the neutral zone. Once again Stewart and Pither combined to almost restore the Panthers lead, Pither blazing just over after a lovely drop pass from the former NHLer.
Michael Garnett had to be large not once but twice as he first denied Joey Martin with the glove then went coast-to-coast to make a larcenous save on Michael Hedden to keep the game tied at four.
Cardiff killed a late penalty to Bryce Reddick (55.37) and with just 13 seconds remaining Luke Pither was called for cross-checking. The Panthers survived the 13 seconds of regulation but it took just 29 seconds of overtime for the home side to secure the extra point. Joey Martin firing past Garnett in close to seal a thrilling encounter in favour of the Cardiff Devils.