Nottingham Panthers 2-1 MK Lightning (2nd Feb)

By Paul Brookman

David Norris returned to the Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning for the first time since before Christmas but it failed to prevent the team from being edged out 2-1 at Nottingham Panthers on Saturday.

Ironically Norris’ last appearance on December 22 had been at Panthers’ Motorpoint Arena when MK lost by a 6-2 margin. On Saturday all the goals came in the first and second periods with Lightning, at full strength for the first time since that defeat,  beaten for a ninth consecutive time to leave them 15 points behind the second from bottom placed team in the Elite League.

Since the December loss Panthers have dispensed with the services of coach Rich Chernomaz and put former Milton Keynes Kings chief Rick Strachan in charge of a squad which look likely to finish third in the table behind Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants.

The game was just 20 seconds old when Lightning were afforded a powerplay when Great Britain forward Robert Farmer was penalised for slashing. Unfortunately the man advantage came to a premature end as Georgs Golovkovs was called for tripping.

During the four on four spell it was the hosts who made the most of the extra space on the ice with Tim Billingsley setting up Mark Hurtubise to beat goalie Patrick Killeen to score just 22 seconds after Golovkovs journey to the sin bin, registering at 1min 46secs.

If one feared that signalled the start of a big score for Panthers then Lightning proved those fans wrong, even though they couldn’t capitalise on a couple of powerplays resulting from penalties on first Josh Tetlow, for a high stick  after 10mins 36secs and then Alexandre Bolduc, a late hit, on 15mins 9secs.

Tim Wallace ended the first period in the penalty box – picking up a hooking call three seconds from the break with Panthers still a goal in front.

The home side remained in front until 6mins 44secs into the middle session when Lightning put together a well worked move which saw Nelson Armstrong involved as Golovkovs fed Wallace for a shot from the left circle which eluded goalie Michael Garnett for the equaliser.

However the teams were not tied for long, thanks to Jon Rheault supplying Alex Guptil to put Panthers back in front after 36mins 26secs.

That proved to be the final goal of the game – Lightning surviving a penalty kill after Wallace was sent to the cooler for hooking on 45mins 20secs without consequence.

The visitors called a timeout with 1min 38secs remaining and withdrew Killeen for the extra skater but it was to no avail as Panthers held on for the win.

Man of the match: Tim Wallace (Sponsored by Bill’s Coach Hire)

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