Nottingham Panthers 6 Cardiff Devils 5

Strange game, strange scoreline and a strange atmosphere at the NIC this evening. Although it finished a close scoreline I never really felt that the game would be anything other than a Panthers win while the game was in progress!

After a scrappy start  the Panthers took a two goal lead. Clever line changing left McAslan through one on one for the first, while Kevin Bergin grabbed the second on the powerplay with a blast from the right. Devils pulled one back late on in the period, Matt Miller scoring on the backhand.
The second saw the Devils equalise early on. Mark Smith pulled off a dive of Tessier-esque quality right in front of Hicks, who promptly called David Clarke for a hook when he had barely touched Smith! Of course the Devils equalised from the subsequent powerplay, Phil Hill’s deflected shot beating KSP. Panthers re-took the lead through David Clarke on the powerplay with a nice finish from an angle, then made it 4-2 with a trademark D’Amour point blast. Rather than extend the lead Panthers let the Devils right back into it almost straight away, as Jay Latulippe found the net. Panthers should have made it 5-3, but Stevie Lyle pulled of a quite astonishing point blank save from Steve Lee.
Panthers made the game safe early in the third, first David Clarke grabbed his second of the night, poking the loose puck through Lyle’s five-hole. less than two minutes later it was 6-3 as Panthers scored the goal of the game. Bruce drop passed to Galbraith who one timed the pass in front of the net where Cameron Mann made no mistake, an absolutely perfectly executed goal. Still the Devils came back, as Latulippe made it 6-4 with a blast into the top corner. A late powerplay gave Devils another sniff, but a Smith goal at 59.42 was too little, too late and the game finished with 6-5 scoreline.

The biggest surprise for me tonight was the lack of impact of Brad Voth on the game. He got a boat load of ice time, but never really made his presence felt, especially at 6-4 down when a hit or a fight could have given Devils the momentum to get something out of the game. I thought he was largely anonymous, which is unusual as he is normally immense against us.

So Panthers go back to the top, but wins against Newcastle and Edinburgh this week are essential to keep up the momentum. As for the Devils, they’ll be up there at season’s end, of that I have no doubt.

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