Panthers beat Giants 5-3 to win Elite League title

Nottingham Panthers have won the Elite League title after beating defending champions Belfast Giants 5-3.

Nottingham needed a victory to clinch the crown but Noah Clarke put the Odyssey hosts ahead on 18 minutes.

Bruce Graham levelled seconds later and Kevin Saurette restored Belfast's lead before David Clarke equalised.

David Ling edged the visitors in front and Adam Keefe levelled before Pat Galivan and Matt Francis strikes sealed a first league title in 57 years.

In an intense atmosphere, with a very vocal and sizeable contingent from Nottingham, a frenetic first period was littered with penalties.

At one point the Giants had five players sitting out with penalties.

The Giants then failed to take advantage of a five versus three situation but got the breakthrough score on 17:45 after Nottingham's Jonathan Weaver took out the Clarke as he bore down on goal.

Clarke duly converted the penalty shot, but the lead lasted seconds as the Panthers went straight up the ice and equalised through Graham.

The penalty count dropped in the second period as the game settled into an intriguing battle.

The Giants had the perfect start with Saurette scoring but the Panthers responded once more with a stunning shot from Clarke.

Nottingham then took the lead for the first time when Ling exploited an opportunity presented by a defensive mix-up.

The period ended 3-3 when Giants captain Keefe equalised to set up a tense final 20 minutes.

The Panthers took the initiative in the third period and scored twice, first through Galivan and then Francis fired into an empty goal after the Giants pulled netminder Stephen Murphy.

The two sides meet again at the Odyssey on Saturday night.

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