Venus game-winner in hard-fought Blaze victory
A stunning goal by Ross Venus with less than three minutes to play secured the Genting Casino Coventry Blaze a hard-earned 5-4 win over the Nottingham Panthers in another Christmas cracker at the Skydome Arena.
The Blaze, who were without Canadian defenceman Justin Hache through injury, were looking to bounce back from a 6-2 defeat against the Cardiff Devils, while the Panthers started Patrick Munson in goal instead of Michael Garnett.
Coventry made a strong start to the game and took the lead through Alex Nikiforuk’s tenth league goal of the season at 2.48, following an excellent pass from Swedish forward Thom Flodqvist.
The Blaze doubled their lead just over a minute later when Canadian forward Tim Crowder recorded his 13th league goal of the season at 4.00, and things could have been even better when Ben Lake was awarded a penalty shot at 6.45. But his attempt failed to beat Munson in the Panthers goal.
Blaze finished the first period leading 2-0 but the Panthers made a strong start to the second period and struck back early through Marek Tvrdon (21.17).
The hosts restored their two-goal lead through Shawn Pauly at 25.49, but Nottingham reduced the deficit again through Dylan Richard (27.53).
And the Panthers capitalised on a slashing penalty given against Blaze captain Kevin Morris with just 13 seconds left in the period to equalise with a powerplay goal scored by GB international Brett Perlini with just five seconds left on the clock (39.55).
The third period began with the Panthers putting pressure on the Blaze goal, but Coventry retook the lead when Luke Ferrara rifled home his eighth league goal of the season from the blue line at 52.07.
But that lead lasted less than two minutes before Nottingham equalised again through the league’s leading scorer Alex Guptill (54.04).
Nottingham thought they had taken the lead with just four minutes to go, but the goal was washed off by referee Tom Pering because the Blaze goal had been dislodged in the build-up, and that set the stage for man-of-the-match Venus’s stunning game-winning strike at 57.01, his second game-winning goal in four days. The Blaze absorbed some strong Nottingham pressure in the final minute as the Panthers pulled Munson for the extra skater in a bid to find another equaliser. But the Blaze defence held firm to ensure the home side secured the victory.