Ice hockey play offs: Sheffield Steelers 5-4 Cardiff Devils (final score)

Barrasso's last Arena game
Barrasso's last Arena game

Sheffield Steelers made a red-hot start to the play off quarter final first leg at Sheffield Arena tonight against Cardiff - but the Welsh fought their way back.

Winger Robert Dowd scored an early goal against the Welsh to send a noisy home crowd into raptures.

And they were 5-1 up in the third period - with the tie swinging firmly in their direction.

But Tom Barrasso's men conceded three in the last 15 minutes as Andrew Lord's team bit back, ahead of tomorrow's second leg decider.

Cardiff, who took maximum points from Steelers in five games out of six in the league, had been without Joey Haddad, but had plenty of strength in depth.

But trying to shrug off the disappointment of being league runners-up, Cardiff found Steelers to be a different proposition to what they'd seen in some of their earlier games.

Aaron Johnson hit on the boards . Pic Hayley Roberts

Aaron Johnson hit on the boards . Pic Hayley Roberts

Tanner Eberle nailed Joey Martin in a centre-ice hit and Jonathan Phillips was giving a master-class in forechecking and shot blocking.

Anthony DeLuca was hard to contain when he got on the puck.

Sheffield, in their last home game of the season and with Tom Barrasso bidding goodbye to the Arena crowd, were full value for money.

Ben O'Connor took the game's first penalty at 17;46, but the well-drilled skaters kept a first session clean sheet.

And they deserved the Dowd near post goal which separated the sides.

Cardiff forced their way back briefly - Layne Ulmer potting a rebound off Jackson Whistle's left pad.

But then came a quite incredible turn of events.

John Armstrong skated in from the right wing and teed up Dowd for his second.

But more importantly, James Livingston was ejected for spearing DeLuca - and Sheffield clicked into gear on the five minute power play.

First Jordan Owens scored his first home goal of the season since October.

Then Armstrong scored to make it 4-1.

Canadian right winger Livingston's indiscretion had really hit his own side hard.

The pulsating game entered the last period and we witnessed Steelers expand their lead from Armstrong - a short-handed goal after a sloppy Cardiff power play.

But Devils rallied and Sean Bentivoglio poached a goal from short-range at 45;31 (5-2.)

Another scrappy goal from Devils at 54;20, from Martin, closed the gap further.

Whistle looked hugely frustrated to see the margin diminished again.

With two minutes to go, it was a one-goal game with Bentivoglio snatching his second on a power play, with Eberle in the box.