Elite League: Belfast Giants lose 3-2 to Manchester Storm after penalty shootout
The Belfast Giants extended their lead at the top of the Elite League to three points despite losing 3-2 to Manchester Storm after a penalty shootout.
Dane Byers gave Storm a ninth-minute lead but Darcy Murphy equalised 44 seconds into the second period.
Shane Bakker netted for the visitors three minutes into the final period but Kendall McFall levelled for Belfast.
With no further goals Manchester sealed the extra point with a 2-0 win in the shootout, the Giants taking a point.
Adam Keefe's side came into Friday night's encounter at the SSE Arena with a two-point lead over Cardiff at the top of the table, following the Devils' 3-0 win at Milton Keynes the previous evening.
They were hoping to put some more distance between themselves and the champions with this home game against Storm, who started the evening second from bottom.
Storm blow hot and cold
Manchester took the lead when Byers found a way past Tyler Beskorowany in the Giants' goal.
The home side were unable to restore parity in the first period despite two subsequent power play opportunities and a host of chances for an equaliser.
The Giants made the perfect start to the second period as Josh Roach's shot was blocked by Storm netminder Matt Ginn into the path of Murphy, who made no mistake to score the equaliser.
There was little festive spirit on display six minutes later as a multi-player brawl broke out, the four officials taking time to restore order on the ice.
Three players from each side ended up in the sin-bin, with five minute major penalties for the Giants' Curtis Leonard and Harrison Ruopp of the Storm for fighting.
The Giants again spurned several good chances but Byers had the best opportunity of the middle period. Clear on goal, his early shot was blocked by Beskorowany.
The Storm stunned the home crowd as they regained the lead through Bakker's goal.
Giants captain Blair Riley and Byers served two-minute penalties for roughing soon after the goal as tempers flared once again, right in front of the team benches.
The Giants pulled level for the second time in the game when McFall's shot through a crowd of players flew in past an unsighted Ginn.
With no further scoring in regulation, the game went to sudden death overtime.
Storm were called by the officials for too many men on the ice with under two minutes to play but the Giants were unable to take advantage with the extra man and so the game went to penalty shots.
Ciaran Long and Riley Stadel were the only players to convert in the shootout.
The Giants will entertain the same opponents on Saturday evening.