If the Vancouver Giants wanted to create some separation in the standings, now was the time.
The Giants hosted the Kamloops Blazers on Friday night at the Langley Events Centre in the first leg of a home-and-home series.
But after falling behind 4-2 after 40 minutes, only to rally with two goals in the latter half of the third period, Vancouver surrendered a power-play goal with 16.4 seconds remaining to lose 5-4.
The win pulled the Blazers (5-11-0-0) to within three points of the Giants (5-8-1-2) for fourth place in the B.C. Division, heading into Saturday’s rematch at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops.
The Blazers have won five of seven games following a franchise-worst 0-9 start to the season.
Vancouver has lost four straight games, picking up just one point over that span.
In Friday’s contest, after the Giants tied the game, Brad Morrison — who scored twice — took a slashing penalty with 1:51 to play in regulation.
And just when it looked like Vancouver might survive to get to overtime, the Blazers’ Garrett Pilon got his stick on a Luc Smith shot from the point, with the puck trickling through David Tendeck and sending the fans heading to the exits.
Overall, it was not the best of games for Vancouver.
After falling behind 1-0 5:15 into the game on a Quinn Benjafield goal, Vancouver rallied with goals 69 seconds apart.
The first, a power-play goal, saw Ty Ronning dig the puck free to Morrison, who buried his third of the season.
Brendan Semchuk then fed Dawson Holt and with a wide-open net in front of him, Holt scored his second of the season.
But the Blazers struck back for three goals in the middle stanza.
Smith and Pilon scored in the first 4:14 of the period as Kamloops has three goals on their first 10 shots.
Later in the period, shortly after a Vancouver penalty expired, Jermaine Loewen doubled the Blazers lead to two.
The Giants finally showed some life in the back-half of the second period.
Morrison pulled the team to within one when he pounced on a rebound in the slot.
And on the tying goal, Milos Roman made a great move at the blue-line, to get past his defender, before dishing to Ronning, who buried his team-leading 13th with 2:30 to play.
Vancouver’s top line of Roman (two assists), Morrison (two goals, one assist) and Ronning (one goal, two assists) finished with a combined eight points.
But the team’s second line of James Malm, Tyler Benson and Brayden Watts struggled with just three shots total. They were also a combined minus-6 for the game with Watts on for the first four goals against.
Vancouver also out-shot Kamloops 27-22 but goaltender David Tendeck finished with just 17 saves.
Blazers rookie goalie Max Palaga earned his first career WHL goal while another rookie — and a local Langley product — Brodi Stuart had a pair of assists. He now has 10 points in 16 games.