Published Wednesday, 07 March 2012
The Belfast Giants are left disappointed by the home defeat. (© Michael Cooper)
"No doubt - our worst game of the year," Doug Christiansen told UTV after the game.
"This has to be something we learn from. There's so much for this team to play for this year, that this has to be a lesson that we learn and this team has to improve from tonight."
Former Giant Brandon Benedict slotted home after just 11 minutes to open the scoring and there was further disappointment to come for the home side.
The Giants thought they'd claimed an equalising goal just before the end of the first period, but the referee called Nottingham netminder Craig Kowalski's save right as the puck actually hadn't crossed the line.
With the Panthers taking the early lead, they added insult to injury in the second - firing in two goals, from Brock Wilson and Matt Francis, in quick succession.
Belfast tried to keep up the pressure, but the visitors capitalised on a powerplay opportunity to add a fourth goal to their tally early in the third period via David Beauregard.
It took the Giants until just seven minutes before the final siren to regain some pride with a goal from Jeff Mason, assisted by captain Jeremy Rebek, but it wasn't enough to really get them back in the game.
In a final blow to the home side's efforts, David Clarke managed to claim the fifth and final goal right as the clock hit zero.
"We got what we deserved - we did not compete to the best of our ability," Christiansen said.
"We thought we could show up and get the job done, but we didn't do that.
"If because of tonight we accomplish our goals, tonight will be a lesson that is very, very important for this team - because I think it brought us down to earth a little bit."
Wednesday's result means the Belfast have made life difficult for themselves, ahead of travelling to Nottingham for the second leg next Tuesday.
The Panthers are seeking their third Challenge Cup in four years, while the Belfast Giants have only held the title once - back in 2009.
But before they can even think about that return leg, the Giants face crucial back-to-back games away to the Edinburgh Capitals this weekend as they continue their hunt for the Elite League title.
© UTV News