A slow start proved costly as Oxford City Stars crashed to a 5-2 defeat at Cardiff Devils in English National League South Division 2.

Victory would have taken the defending champions back to the top of the table, but they fell short of their best form.

Most of the damage was done in the first period, when the Welsh side raced into a 4-0 lead despite being hit with several penalties.

Stars were given an early opportunity on the powerplay when Cardiff were penalised for having too many men on the ice.

However, the visitors were stung on the counter-attack as Giacoma Raffaelli fired past netminder Ricky Young.

A goalmouth fracas led to Oxford player-coach Darren Elliott being punched by Matthew Downward, who was ejected from the match.

Again the visitors could not make the most of their numerical advantage, as they shipped a second short-handed goal, scored by Josh Haslam.

An out-of-sorts Stars conceded twice more before the end of the period, with Jeff Monaghan and Raffaelli netting.

Cardiff pounced on the counter again after the interval, Ben Brown making it 5-0.

Stars finally got some reward before the end of the period.

Joe Edwards, in his first game back after breaking his ankle in October, combined with Josh Oliver and squeezed a shot in off a post from a very tight angle.

Green made it 5-2 with a powerplay goal 13 minutes from time, but it failed to spark a comeback.