Five conceded goals in 14 minutes last night completely rubbed the shine off a promising Steelers’ weekend.
Having thrilled their home fans on Saturday against Nottingham, they collapsed from the 41st minute in the return Elite League leg, Canadian Matt Francis eventually bagging a hat-trick.
The 6-1 defeat may not have been a fair reflection of the game - but its stats that matter.
And Panthers, who attracted a crowd of 6,869, are now two points behind Sheffield, with three games in hand.
Their win was a third period special: five unanswered goals, which leave plenty of unanswered questions about Steelers’ endurance and ability to handle pressure cooker road games like this.
The match went up in intensity at 8:47 when 6ft 7ins d-man Brent Henley, skated from the bench and flew at Tim Spencer - Henley being ejected for excessive rough play.
Yet Panthers scored on that penalty kill, 46 seconds later, Francis helped by Robert Lachowicz and Jonathan Weaver.
A dominant Steelers upped the pressure in the next session, crashing a shot at the crossbar and seemingly getting closer by the minute.
But they had to a 71 second five-on-three penalty kill when Jonathan Phillips and Jason Hewitt shared the penalty box, Doyle defying David Clarke and Lachowicz.
On 31 minutes, Dowd, on the PP, fashioned a chance allowing Rob Sirianni to make it 1-1. And when Phillips broke away to be hauled down by Tom Norton, Steelers fans were yelling for a penalty shot, but none was awarded.
Dowd was later hurt by a check on the boards by Tuukka Makela, who got a 5+Game for at 38:31. Nottingham took the lead on a 4 on 3 powerplay by ex NHL forward Matt Ryan getting the decisive touch.
Phil Hill’s penalty gave Panthers the chance to add another, big left winger Leigh Salters credited with the goal at 46:34, but it Chad Langlais got the last touch into his own net.
At 50:37 it was effectively over: Panthers’ Chris Murray claiming his fourth, the first even handed goal of the night. Unplayable Francis then staked his hat-trick with goals on 51 and 55 minutes.
n Sometimes it is the unsung heroes who should take a bow in hockey.
On Saturday, there were plenty of those as Steelers responded to the 6,755 crowd’s energy.
Jeff Legue got 2+2, Langlais also got a brace, his first goals for Sheffield, and Phillips scored an outstanding goal.
But the House of Steel showed its appreciation for the penalty killers who kept Panthers’ snipers at bay at a critical times. And Dowd, despite the fact he missed a penalty shot and wasn’t amongst the points, was the side’s best player.
David Clarke and Weaver got Notts’ goals.