The Smith Recycling MK Lightning overcame a third period scare to clinch a deserved 5-3 victory against Guildford Flames at MK Arena.
Lightning looked to be heading for a comfortable 3-1 win when James Griffin was penalised for kneeing in the 44th minute – his frustration led to an additional two minutes for misconduct, giving Flames four minutes of powerplay during which they hit the target twice to set up a tense final quarter of an hour.
Fittingly it was Griffin who made amends with a superbly taken shot from inside the blue line to put the hosts back in front at 51mins 5secs. And the defenceman then had a hand as Blaz Emersic set up Bobby Chamberlain to fire in from close range for the fifth goal 2mins 47secs from the buzzer.
Lightning had the best of the early chances – Frankie Bakrlik was first to test former MK netminder, Dean Skinns, who was preferred in between the pipes to Finn Joonas Kuusela. Skinns fumbled the effort but no-one could follow up.
Shortly after Ed Knaggs tried his luck from the blue line, forcing a glove save from the goalie before he blocked a Lewis Christie shot.
Matic Kralj intercepted a Lightning pass in the third minute to provide Guildford’s first real threat but goalie Przemy Odrobny was able to get in the way of the shot.
However the MK stopper had little chance when Tuomas Santavuori crashed home a behind the net pass on 6mins 3secs.
That served to spark Flames who had an opportunity by Jens Eriksson as well as a weak effort from Andrew Melachrino.
But then Lightning regained their composure with Skinns making a chest block from Sam Jones ahead of stopping Chamberlain’s attempt.
A five on three powerplay gave MK the chance to draw level – Matic Kralj was sin binned for two minutes for holding the opponent’s stick and immediately Tom Duggan was also handed a two minute penalty for misconduct.
The home side peppered the Flames goal with plenty of shots but it looked as though it would come to nothing until Bakrlik blasted through traffic past Skinns for the equaliser five seconds from the end of the powerplay at 17mins 55secs.
The second period was just 1min 50secs old when Emersic put Bakrlik away up the left and the Czech unleashed a rocket of a shot past Skinns to put his side in the driving seat.
When Lewis Hook was sin binned for slashing in the 26th minute it was Lightning, not Flames, who controlled most of the play with the visitors not able to produce any offence until the last 25 seconds with the extra man.
Lightning had two fine opportunities within the space of a minute as Milan Baranyk shot past the post before Michael Farn’s effort was blocked with Bakrlik’s follow up going over the bar.
Griffin then set up Jordan Cownie for an excellently taken goal to put clear daylight between the two outfits on 35mins 48secs.
The period ended with Craig Scott in the sin bin for boarding. However on the ensuing powerplay spilling over into the third session Flames made little impression.
It was not until Griffin’s four minutes in the cooler that the game turned in Flames’ favour – albeit temporarily.
Former Milton Keynes King Danny Meyers found space at the left hand post on 45mins 31secs to draw the Surrey side to within a goal of the home team.
Fans then feared the worst as Flames captain Jez Lundin supplied the impressive Santavuori for a blue line blast which eluded Odrobny on 46mins 59secs for the leveller.
Once back at full strength though Lightning regained the ascendancy with Griffin’s goal before Chamberlain’s strike made sure.
Flames withdrew Skinns for the extra skater with exactly a minute to go. The stopper had to return to the ice though with seven seconds remaining after Flames were caught with seven skaters on the ice.
Man of the Match: Frankie Bakrlik
Report: Paul Brookman