Three Cardiff Devils goals in less than five second period minutes wrecked any outside hope Smith Recycling Lightning had of pulling off a shock result against the Elite League leaders as they eventually went down 4-1 at MK Arena on Saturday.
Devils’ class – and the fact that they iced almost four complete forward lines against Lightning’s three – told in the end, despite the home outfit battling hard until the end.
Lightning welcomed netminder Miika Wiikman back to the line up – albeit as back-up to the impressive Henry Pacl – but were missing influential defender Paul Phillips in addition to Kyle Essery and Tommy Mele.
Without the strength in depth of the Welsh team Lightning always looked set to struggle and it was partly due to the fine performance of man of the match Pacl that the game remained goalless at the first break – the Czech stopper the far busier of the two netminders as Devils outshot the hosts three to one, 18-6.
The game was just under six minutes old when Pacl was penalised for tripping, but that did not stop Lightning having a chance short-handed after Christian Isackson won possession in the defensive zone and broke up the ice to produce a decent shot on goal.
Tyson Strachan tried to goad Denny Kearney into responding when he attracted a two minute roughing call in the eighth minute but the MK man, just back from suspension, was having none of it. Thus Lightning earned a powerplay with Francis Verreault-Paul twice involved in promising chances.
But it was Peter Russell’s charges that ended the session defending a two minute penalty after Evan Stoflet was consigned to the cooler with 17 seconds left for slashing.
Lightning saw off the short-handed spell extending into the second stanza and then, against the run of play, stunned their opponents with the opening goal on 22mins 11secs when Isackson fed Kearney at the right hand side of goal to turn in his pass.
The home side were soon defending another short-handed spell because Kearney was back in the box for slashing but they dealt brilliantly with the Devils powerplay threat.
They couldn’t add to their tally as Bryce Reddick was caught slashing – there was plenty of pressure but too few shots on goal.
It was to prove costly a while later when Andrew Hotham set up Sean Bentivoglio for a shot which gave Pacl no chance as went high to his left on 33mins 40secs.
Cardiff took the lead for the first time less than four minutes later in the most unfortunate of circumstances. A poor Lightning passwas intercepted by Joey Martin and his shot was redirected into the net by James Griffin – much to his annoyance – the goal timed at 37mins 2secs.
It was effectively game over after 38mins 36secs when Devils stretched their advantage to two when Reddick supplied Strachan for a blue line thunderbolt which Pacl wouldn’t have seen until it was too late.
To their credit Lightning refused to lie down in the third period and, in terms of shots on goal, it was their best as they produced as many in that period, ten, as they did in the first two periods combined.
However it failed to produce any goals with Devils able to add just one more to their tally after Justin Faryna fed Joey Haddad from behind the goal line to fire home at 53mins 38secs.
That goal gave a slightly unreal emphasis to the score – Devils were the better side but the margin could have been so much closer had Lightning not been having to contend with so many injuries.
Man of the match: Henry Pacl.
By Paul Brookman