MK Lightning 0-3 Cardiff Devils (20th Dec)
By Paul Brookman
Cardiff’s class eventually paid off as Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning were outplayed in a 3-0 Elite League defeat at Planet Ice on Thursday.
It was the first time Lightning had been shut out at home since New Year’s Day last season – then the opposition was also Cardiff who won 5-0.
This time until the 49th minute there was just a chance that the home outfit might pull an equaliser out of the bag – but it was only a slim hope with Devils’ strength across all four lines containing everything thrown at them after the Welsh visitors had taken a first period lead through top scorer Charles Linglet.
That Lightning were still in the game until the final stages was down to man of the match netminder Patrick Killeen who performed heroics to deny an onslaught of Devils offence – particularly in the middle session.
At the other end of the ice it was not just goalie Ben Bowns who was keeping Lightning at bay – the skill of the defencemen in front of him prevented Lightning from producing meaningful shots on him time and time again.
Lightning did come up with some early chances – Tim Wallace going solo up the left in the fifth minute, only for Gleason Fournier to block him at the last moment. David Norris then tried to set up Andreas Valdix but the Swede failed to connect with the pass.
When Michael Fine was called for hooking in the eighth minute Killeen was all that stood between a Devils goal during a scramble in front of the net.
Ivan Šijan saw his blue line blast deflected by Bowns in the 12th minute ahead of Linglet firing against the boards at the other end of the ice. Seconds later it was Linglet, set up by Mark Richardson, who put Devils in front with a shot from the left hand side on 13mins 4secs.
Cardiff ended the period with a man in the sin bin as Mark Louis was penalised for a late hit at 18mins 57secs. But Lightning could make no impact with the extra player during the powerplay which ran over into the middle session.
The shots on goal in the first period told the tale – a mere two for the home side against 14 for Devils. The situation improved slightly in the second session but MK were still outshot 21-11.
In the first two minutes Bryce Reddick prevented a pass from Robbie Baillargeon reaching its intended target, Fine, while a shot from Owen Griffiths shortly after was never going to trouble Bowns.
Killeen made a great stop from a Jake Morissette shot less than a minute later and when Joey Haddad and Morissette went two on one with MK it was the goalie who performed heroics again to block the threat.
A Cardiff powerplay after Nelson Armstrong was sent to the cooler for hooking soon after the halfway stage ended prematurely when Devils’ Sean Bentivoglio was penalised for interference. While four on four Reddick blocked a Wallace shot and after MK returned to full strength Killeen denied Evan Mosey.
The second session ended with Killeen again on top form to stop Layne Ulmer from a Matt Pope pass – Lightning keeping the gap to one goal for the start of the third period.
The hosts still had a chance to find a way back into the game in the final 20 minutes but in reality Devils carried on where they left off at the second interval with Killeen preventing further score.
Eventually though even Killeen cracked when Ulmer found Haddad at the left hand side of goal and he was able to slot home on 49mins 21secs.
Just over two minutes later Lightning’s vague challenge was effectively extinguished when Fournier fired home from the right at 51mins 49secs.
Cole Shudra had a couple of worthwhile efforts in the following minutes but neither troubled Bowns and Lightning’s hopes were finally wrecked after Valdix was thrown out of the encounter on a five minutes plus game penalty for a check to the head after 55mins 25secs. That meant MK ended the match defending a penalty kill which led to plenty of Devils pressure but no further goals.
Man of the match: Patrick Killeen (sponsored by Smith Recycling).