The Belfast Giants took a narrow 1-0 defeat in their Challenge Cup quarter-final first leg at home against the Cardiff Devils on Wednesday night.
Still troubled by something of a goal drought, the hosts fought their way through all three periods without managing to get on the scoresheet.
The lack of fire-power will be cause for concern, particularly after the frustration of being shut out by the Sheffield Steelers last weekend.
The Giants did come tantalisingly close time and time again though.
In an opening period which saw the Belfast captain Matt Pelech drop the gloves with Mark Lewis of the Devils, a shot from Jordan Smotherman dinged the crossbar – no goal, although it took a review for the referees to realise that.
First to actually find the net though was Joey Martin, putting Cardiff into the lead with just over five minutes to go before the first break.
He found a way past Belfast netminder Shane Owen just as the Giants killed off a penalty and returned to full strength.
In the second period, despite three powerplay chances, the Giants still couldn’t find a way to score.
And there was more of the same in third, with shouts of disbelief from the home fans as their side – more than once – came agonisingly close to bagging that elusive first goal.
But the game headed into the final five minutes with Adam Keefe’s side still trailing by one goal.
A big save from Owen inside the last minute of play kept the deficit at just one goal.
However, failing to get on the scoresheet means the Giants will have to battle uphill in the second leg game in Cardiff next Wednesday if they are to make it to the semi-finals.
The Giants are the defending Challenge Cup champions, having won the tournament for the last two seasons on the bounce.
“We need to score some goals here – it’s not falling in the net for us right now,” head coach Adam Keefe said.
“Aside from that, I thought we played a really good hockey game.”
He added: “The good news about this competition is it’s a two-leg race here.”
The Giants travel to take on the Devils in Cardiff on Wednesday 18 December – but before that, they have to face the Dundee Stars in an Elite League game in Scotland on Friday and the Glasgow Clan in Belfast in Sunday.