MK Lightning 4-3 Nottingham Panthers (APS)
By Paul Brookman
They may have had four lines of forwards and seven defencemen, but in a true tale of David slaying Goliath little Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning didn’t let that minor inconvenience stop them pulling off the shock Elite League result of the evening at Planet Ice on Saturday.
The roof was still intact – just – after ‘Super Timmy’ Wallace went head to head with Nottingham Panthers’ top scorer Alexander Guptil in the sudden penalty shoot out and fired in the winner to send the home fans delirious for a 4-3 victory.
Down to a bare bones squad of four defencemen (one of them really a forward) and three lines of forwards Lightning fully deserved their spoils for the sheer effort they put into an encounter in which few would have given them a chance.
Even when Wallace’s depleted outfit equalised with less than 15 minutes to go most fans wouldn’t have expected them to hold on to force the game into an overtime period which failed to resolve the battle. But tired legs held on – aided by the thunderous support of the home crowd – even as that equaliser seemed to jolt a hitherto complacent Panthers into greater efforts.
But having got so far Lightning were again in no mood to lie down and surrender to one of the ‘big boys’ of the Elite competition. With Patrick Killeen on his game in between the pipes Panthers were denied time and again. Having already made a fine block the stopper denied Robert Farmer, then Ollie Betteridge and then Tim Billingsley before Justin Kovacs’ effort met the same fate.
Robbie Baillargeon had a great chance to settle the issue with just over a minute to go but he failed to take it and in the final minute of regulation time Tommy Hughes tried his luck for Panthers with no success.
So overtime beckoned – five minutes passed in the blink of an eye before the first five penalty shots finished with the teams ending one apiece – Wallace’s the only success for MK.
Killeen then stood like a mountain to deny Guptil before Wallace wrapped up the two points with a deftly taken shot which sailed past Panthers’ goalie Michael Garnett.
Early on Lightning set out their intentions when David Norris fired them in front after 2mins 30secs, intercepting a Nottingham pass in their defence zone.
But it looked like a predictable result was on the cards following a hooking call on Trevor Morbeck as Panthers took full advantage of the powerplay with Luke Pither finding himself in space to pick his spot past Killeen at 7mins 7secs.
On 14mins 18secs Kovacs made it 2-1 to the visitors after being fed in the neutral zone by Kevin Henderson and racing away to shoot high over the shoulder of the MK stopper.
Panthers ended the first period with a man in the sin bin – Betteridge having been penalised for holding the opponent’s stick in the dying seconds.
Lightning didn’t waste the opportunity with the extra man – Wallace supplying Baillargeon for the equaliser seven seconds from the first break.
It took until 29mins 12secs for the next goal to come and when it did it was from a behind the net pass by Farmer which was converted by Brett Perlini.
Wallace and Baillargeon both had good efforts saved by Garnett when Lightning were on the powerplay following an interference penalty on Hughes before Michael Fine went for hooking.
Emerging from the sin bin Fine was denied by the netminder and seconds later Nelson Armstrong went up the right, only to have his shot saved.
It was not until the 44th minute that Wallace was able to even things up from a Fine set up, prompting Panthers into belated – and ultimately fruitless – action.
Man of the match: David Norris (sponsored by Energie Fitness MK) - click here to watch the post match interview with Tim Wallace.