Smith Recycling MK Lightning hit back with six unanswered goals after being given an early scare by Manchester Phoenix at MK Arena on Saturday.
Phoenix started the game with a gritty performance which totally belied their lowly position in the league.
They stunned Lightning by opening the scoring on 1min 7secs as they went on their first attack with Roman Malinik feeding Marek Indra for a blast which went through Przemy Odrobny’s legs.
Worse was to come before the hosts had any meaningful offensive play – Ben Wood’s slapshot from the blue line being turned into the net at the left post by Phoenix’s long serving import, Robin Kovar, to make it 2-0 at 4mins 14secs.
It was not until the fifth minute that the visiting netminder, Stephen Fone, was tested with a Lewis Hook effort which he was able to save.
There was a further scare for Pete Russell’s men midway through the period when Malinik won the puck in the neutral zone and raced away to go one on one with Odrobny – but his final effort failed to beat the MK stopper.
Glenn Billing went agonisingly close a minute later before Gareth O’Flaherty forced a save from Odrobny in the 14th minute.
Hook had a great opportunity to fire in on goal in the 16th minute with Fone clear in his sights but instead chose to pass and the chance was gone.
With 1min 6secs left on the period Jakub Langhammer was penalised for cross-checking Bobby Chamberlain but on the powerplay MK failed to produce anything to test Fone before the first buzzer.
But it was a completely different story after the break with Jordan Cownie on the left supplying Tom Carlon to shoot in to the right of Fone within 50 seconds of the restart to cut the deficit on the powerplay.
In the 22nd minute Phoenix’s Scott Bailey was called for tripping and MK appeared to have levelled as Leigh Jamieson hit a rocket from the blue line but referee Tim Pickett washed out the effort for spotting a player in the goalie’s crease.
Kovar forced a save from Odrobny on the visitor’s first attack of the middle stanza in the 25th minute but from then on the Phoenix threat began to wane with MK starting to stamp their authority, eventually equalising when James Griffin made the pass for Frankie Bakrlik to dummy the keeper before slotting in at 33mins 27secs.
It was not long before Lightning edged in front on a delayed penalty as Lewis Christie set up Cownie to register from close range on 35mins 31secs.
Tony Hand’s charges’ hopes faded further before the second break thanks MK’s second powerplay strike of the night – Blaz Emersic going up the left to supply Hook to beat Fone at 39mins 23secs.
In the first minute of the third session Christie was penalised for hooking Kovar but there was little danger from the Manchester powerplay unit.
If there was any doubt about the eventual winners it was put to bed with another delayed penalty strike – moments after Chamberlain was taken down with a high stick by Luke Boothroyd. Fittingly it was Chamberlain who exacted his revenge with the home team’s fifth goal at 45mins 23secs.
Sam Jones took exception to a challenge from Michael Stratford as the encounter went into the final five minutes – both receiving four minutes for fighting. The penalties were coincidental, meaning both teams carried on at full strength with no impact on the scoreline.
But there was time for one more Lightning goal – Emersic being rewarded for his largely unsung efforts at 58mins 49secs with a touch in from Bakrlik’s set up to complete a satisfactory night’s work for the English Premier League title challengers.
Man of the Match: Bobby Chamberlain
Report: Paul Brookman