Belfast Giants reaffirmed their position ahead of Steelers in the Elite League pecking order with their second win at Sheffield Arena in 24 hours.
Coming back from 2-0 down, the Irish exuded speed, class and lethal finishing power and have now given Sheffield a mountain to climb in the remaining 17 league matches.
Steelers, who are today actively pursuing a new right winger, had crumbled 5-2 on Saturday against the same opponents and coach Paul Thompson had promised that his team always “kicked back” after disappointment.
But their special teams were poor - and they generally looked second rate in terms of speed and desire.
Watch our video to get Thompson’s take on the disastrous weekend.
The coach had restored Markus Nilsson to the first line and Rob Dowd and Levi Nelson were reunited on the same line.
Michael Quesnele fluffed a good opportunity in Sheffield’s slot before Steelers’ fourth line provided the opener.
For the second night running, Luke Ferrara found the net, this time with probably his first touch of the game, at 3;57.
Lots of rubber was being fired at Sheffield goalie Ervins Mustukovs, but Jonathan Phillips , who had assisted on Ferrara’s strike, was denied on a breakaway and Steelers netted a controversial second.
Colton Fretter collided with netminder Stephen Murphy. who ended up in the back of the net, allowing Mathieu Roy easy access to the scoresheet.
A hit by Levi Nelson was judged an elbows infraction and Giants scored on the Power Play, Colin Shields making it 2-1.
That goal marked a dramatic changed of events. Blair Riley won a one-on-one battle to trigger a move he was to finish off at 23;02.
And for the fourth time in two nights, Belfast converted on the Power Play. Steelers couldn’t live with the swish transition by their visitors, David Rutherford making it 3-2 for Belfast.
The body language of goalie Mustukovs suggested anger or frustration, at least.
Hope sprang from a 3-3 equaliser, Levi Nelson back-handing home as he tumbled to the ice.
But then Steve Saviano plunged a dagger into Sheffield’s title hopes, scoring a brace in two minutes.
Both were similar executions, chances provided to him by diligent and focussed offensive play.
Yared Hagos netted with 57 seconds left but with Cardiff Devils winning at Fife, the aspiration of a third consecutive league title now looks a pipe dream.
* On Saturday, Thompson blamed individual mistakes and the team not being “mentally with it” for the five goals all conceded within the first half hour in a 2-5 reverse.
“You give opportunities to a team with that skill-set and they will take advantage.
The collapse had “stressed” the players so much it took 15 minutes for them to “find themselves.”
Steelers had “misread” Giants PP and gave up two “terrible goals” short-handed.
Sunday 29th January
Dundee Stars 6 Braehead Clan 5 (PS)
Edinburgh Capitals 4 Manchester Storm 6
Fife Flyers 1 Cardiff Devils 2
Nottingham Panthers 8 Coventry Blaze 3
Sheffield Steelers 4 Belfast Giants 5
Wednesday 1st February
Challenge Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg
Cardiff Devils v Belfast Giants – 7.30pm
Friday 3rd February
Dundee Stars v Edinburgh Capitals – 7.30pm
Saturday 4th February
Braehead Clan v Belfast Giants – 7.00pm
Fife Flyers v Edinburgh Capitals – 7.15pm
Manchester Storm v Coventry Blaze – 7.00pm
Nottingham Panthers v Cardiff Devils – 7.00pm
Sheffield Steelers v Dundee Stars – 7.00pm @ Ice Sheffield
Sunday 5th February
Cardiff Devils v Manchester Storm – 6.00pm
Coventry Blaze v Sheffield Steelers – 5.15pm
Edinburgh Capitals v Belfast Giants – 6.00pm
Fife Flyers v Nottingham Panthers – 6.30pm