MK Lightning 1-3 Nottingham Panthers (24th Nov)
By Paul Brookman
Nottingham Panthers’ strength in depth eventually proved too much for Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning when they came away from Planet Ice with a 3-1 win on Saturday.
But Lightning didn’t give up without a fight and it was not until netminder Patrick Killeen was withdrawn in favour of the extra skater following a timeout with 2mins 17secs remaining that Panthers were able to seal the victory with an empty net goal from Marek Tvrdon at 58mins 19secs.
David Norris and Ryan Lannon returned to the Lightning side after injury and had Eric Neiley not departed for Sheffield Steelers in mid-week they would have been at almost full strength, bar youngster James Hounsome. Joint coach Lannon restricted his shifts on the ice as he eased himself back into the side.
From the first face off Lightning showed their opponents no respect and for the early part of the first period they were the team producing the best chances. They were soon rewarded with the opening goal after 3mins 57secs with Radek Meidl, Robbie Baillargeon and Michael Fine earning the credits - a great cross ice pass from Baillargeon being met by Meidl on the back post.
Less than a minute later Panthers’ man of the match Alex Bolduc was called for interference. However being a man short did not stop the visitors threatening the Lightning goal shortly after Nelson Armstrong had seen his blue line shot saved. On a breakaway Luke Pither was only thwarted by the heroics of Killeen.
Back at full strength Panthers levelled the tallies after 9mins 12secs when Dylan Olsen’s blue liner was tipped in by Alex Guptil – the deflection giving Killeen no chance.
It was a 12 minutes long boarding penalty on Armstrong that gave Panthers the opportunity to go into the first interval a goal to the good. Fed by Pither British forward Robert Farmer created space to shoot to the far side of the MK stopper with six seconds to the period buzzer.
Early in the second session Killeen was all that stood between Panthers scoring a third goal after Bolduc broke away. Fortunately the goalie was able to clear the danger.
Nottingham had a minor fright with a scramble in front of their net but by this stage Lightning were generally struggling to make much impression in front of the opposition goal.
Just after the half way mark there was a powerplay chance for the home side as Panthers were caught with too many men following penalties on Rihards Grigors and Farmer for a late hit and roughing respectively. But they were unable to make it count.
Lightning did little better when Olsen was sin binned a couple of minutes later for cross-checking – Owen Griffiths went close and Fine had a go but that was as good as it got as the second session ended scoreless.
The hosts tried to grab an early goal in the third period with James Griffin, supplied by Georgs Golovkovs forcing a fine stop from netminder Michael Garnett, before Baillargeon’s effort hit the side netting – the goal judge’s light erroneously being lit for a split second.
Lightning were threatened again with a one on one break by Bolduc while Tvrdon was serving time for slashing – again Killeen blocked, twice, to snuff out the danger..
As the game went into the final stages Golovkovs was forced to go solo when he had to no one to pass to – his blast being saved.
With 2mins 17secs remaining Lightning made a decisive timeout call as a face off was signalled in the opposition’s defensive zone.
Killeen was withdrawn immediately and after Tim Wallace’s effort from the blue line was stopped Panthers’ Tvrdon won possession on the right and left Lightning in his wake, finding space to score on the empty net at 58mins 19secs to secure the points for the visitors.
There was, however, time for a little last minute entertainment when Martin Mazanec and Tyler Biggs dropped the gloves for an indecisive bout, neither victorious but fighting penalties were dished out to both.
Man of the Match: Robbie Baillargeon, sponsored by City Apartments.