Nottingham Panthers made a supreme start to their Elite League campaign on Sunday night with a 2-1 win over Dundee Stars at the Motorpoint Arena.
Dundee netminder Adam Morrison took home the man of the match award after producing 40 saves against a relentless Panthers attack. But Morrison was beaten twice on the night, with Oliver Betteridge and Robbie Baillargeon finding the net either side of a deserved equaliser by Philippe Sanche.
The match started at a remarkable pace, and it soon become clear that the packed stands were in for a feisty affair as Nottingham’s Joshua Tetlow ditched his gloves to go toe-to-toe with fellow #25 Kyle Haas within 70 seconds of puck drop. The Panthers enjoyed two powerplays in the opening period and even reached the first interval in a 5-on-3, but Dundee’s penalty-kill held on strong and saw out the third without conceding.
On 24:53, Nottingham took the lead through GB international Betteridge who, unassisted, tucked home his first even-strength goal since April. The marauding 25-year-old picked up the puck on his goal line and beat three men as he covered the ice in style. Betteridge’s genius solo effort was topped off by a sublime snapshot that nestled in the top-right corner.
Morrison was called upon halfway through the middle period to save a one-timer from Jeremy Welsh. Welsh scuffed his connection with the pass but still asked questions of the Stars goalie. Kevin Carr stood firm between the sticks on the opposite end of the ice and ensured Nottingham kept their one-goal advantage into the final frame.
Dundee eventually reaped the rewards of their plundering when, on 51:39, Canadian import Sanche pickpocketed possession from a defenceman in transition and found himself in enough space to fire a measured effort into the netting at the near post.
Less than a minute later, the Panthers restored their lead as Baillargeon recovered a loose puck in the crease and scrambled it across the line. Brady Norrish and Simon Suoranta were credited with the assists, with the latter playing a major role in crafting the game-winning goal by acting a nuisance to Morrison as Norrish struck a one-timer from the blue line.
Panthers saw the tie out brilliantly as consistent defensive wins prevented Dundee from pulling their goaltender in favour of the extra attacker over a breathless two-minute spell as the game headed for completion.
With only a matter of seconds on the clock, Carr made his 26th save of the night – undoubtedly the most crucial, too, as he produced a last-gasp stop with the blocker to deny the onrushing visitors an overtime appearance.