Sheffield Steelers gave themselves a mountain to climb in a disastrous start at Nottingham Panthers tonight -but the fight back soon got underway in a thrilling yet ultimately unsuccessful night.
They allowed Brian McGrattan through and he buried a rebound off Ervins Mustukovs at 5.45.
Then, with Chris Lawrence serving two minutes for tripping, Panthers scored a short-handed, a cracking drive from Stephen Shultz at 9;54, a real sickener for the Steelers bench.
The visitors tried to rally and hit the post, but went 3-0 down at 17;17 when McGrattan got his second of the night.
Brad Moran had the home fans delirious when he rammed a fourth past the thoroughly disillusioned Sheffield goaltender.
Not the world’s best first period for a team that may now be seeing its title chances slip away.
Steelers had to re-focus, avoid panic and ill-discipline and chip away at the lead to stand any chance.
And five minutes into the second period they clawed back a goal when Geoff Walker and John Armstrong provided Guillaume Desbiens to make it 4-1.
Just three minutes later, Andreas Valdix fed off his wingers and added a second Steeler goal.
Suddenly it was Nottingham that were scrambling around for answers - but they had no answer to Valdix as he drew the scoreline to 4-3 at 39;07.
The next goal looked like it could be a critical one.
So it was gut-wrenching for orange shirted Steelers fans when David Clarke potted for Panthers at just 71 seconds into the third period.
Yet the roller coaster didn’t stop there.
EIHL player of the week Colton Fretter scored to reduce Panthers lead to 5-4 at 47;02.
Steelers did everything they could, including withdrawing Mustukovs, but they couldn’t find a way to equalise - and catch up ground on the two clubs above them in the table.
Saturday 11th February
Braehead Clan 7 Edinburgh Capitals 5
Coventry Blaze 3 Cardiff Devils 6
Manchester Storm 7 Fife Flyers 3
Nottingham Panthers 5 Sheffield Steelers 4
Sunday 12th February
Braehead Clan v Coventry Blaze – 6.00pm
Cardiff Devils v Nottingham Panthers – 6.00pm
Dundee Stars v Manchester Storm – 6.30pm
Edinburgh Capitals v Sheffield Steelers – 6.00pm
Fife Flyers v Belfast Giants – 6.30pm