AFTER weeks of struggling to find the net in consecutive games, Lightning bounced back in spectacular style with no less than 13 goals at the weekend.
Nick Poole’s men had taken five matches to achieve that total earlier in the month but they hit top form again with a 4-0 shutout of third in the table Slough Jets on Saturday night before demolishing arch rivals Peterborough Phantoms 9-3 at Bretton the following day.
It was the first time in more than seven years that Jets had failed to score a goal against Lightning while the massacre of Phantoms was the biggest winning margin against them since 2004.
In recent years Lightning have struggled in clashes against Jets but not this time, while Lightning fans always like little more than a big win over their closest rivals, Peterborough.
Poole’s side will be aiming to maintain their offensive threat this weekend when they face Sheffield Steeldogs home and away in a double header – the side that knocked them out of the English Premier League Cup at the semi final stage during Lightning’s recent blip in form that also saw them fall away in the battle for the league title.
It took just 39 second for Lightning to open their account on their first attack on Saturday when goakeeper Alex Farn fed defenceman Michael Farn and his pass put captain Adam Carr away on a break away to beat Jets’ netminder Gregg Rockman.
And Rockman was picking the puck out of the net again on 2mins 59secs after Carr sent home Tuomas Tikkanen’s great pinpoint pass from the right.
The visitors hardly knew what had hit them with their normally defensive game plans thrown out the window.
Rockman twice thwarted Tikkanen shots while Lightning goalie Alex Mettam had to be alert to make great stops from Darius Pliskauskas and Adam Calder.
But that was as good as it got for Jets in the first session with Lightning well on top and looking on course for a morale boosting home win to get their play-off push back on track.
And it was hardly any better for Slough in the second with the hosts outshooting them 15-6, although Lightning only had one goal to show for it.
But it has to be said it was a slightly fortunate strike with the puck taking a strange bounce past Rockman after Carr fired in from the neutral zone on 30mins 48secs – not that the captain was bothered as he celebrated his hat-trick.
Lightning dominated the final period even more with a 16 shots to seven tally – Adam Brittle setting up Leigh Jamieson to finish off the tally from close range after 49mins 14secs.
Not since early January had Lightning been able to complete a four point weekend, so could do they do it at Peterborough? The answer was an emphatic yes after Jamieson put Blaz Emersic through open the scoring after 3mins 45secs.
Although Phantoms equalised through Ondrej Lauko after 11mins 50secs, it was the only time they were level during the rest of the game.
The period ended 1-1 with little indication of what was to come in the second session when the visitors struck four times in five minutes, and then added two more goals in quick succession.
The Emersic-Jamieson show got the puck moving with the Slovenian the provider for the Brit after 21mins 12secs and then the roles were reversed for the next goal on 24mins 21secs.
Brittle then set up Grant McPherson for the fourth goal on 25mins 15secs, with goalie Damien King beaten again 1min 27secs later by Michael Wales’ powerplay marker.
Poor Phantoms – struggling to even qualify for the end of season play-offs – were reeling but Lightning were in no mood for mercy.
Carr on 33mins 27secs and Matt Towalski (35mins 51secs) rubbed further salt into the wounds to make it 7-1 in a period which saw Lightning outshoot the home side by an incredible 22 to one.
Lightning were presented with a powerplay in the final session when Phantoms were penalised for changing their lines on icing the puck and Emersic said thanks very much with goal number eight from Poole’s pass at 42mins 54secs.
Even when Peterborough had a five on three powerplay chance – Brittle and Farn both in the sin bin – they could not score.
They did however get a goal back with Richard Bentham on the mark after 53mins 33secs, but only for Jamieson to bag his second of the night from Emersic’s pass 1min 27secs from the buzzer to make it 9-2.
Maris Ziedins registered a third for Phantoms with 21secs remaining but it was too little too late to make a difference for a Peterborough side described by their own local newspaper as “pathetic.” Harsh words, but probably justified for a team outshot to the tune of 50 to 22 on the their own ice.
Now Lightning prepare to take on a Sheffield side they have beaten only once in six attempts so far this season.
Coach Poole said: “Beating Slough and Peterborough was fantastic and obviously there’s a very good feeling in the dressing room about that – but we know the worst thing we could do now is get complacent.
“Losing to Sheffield in the Cup semi final on aggregate was hard to take, so we want to beat them. They got past us by the tiniest of margins, one goal in six periods.
“In those semis we played as well defensively as we have all season, and we created some good chances that we failed to convert, so we will need to be more clinical in our finishing.
“There’s a chance we could end up playing Sheffield again to qualify for the Coventry finals, and we want to go into that phase knowing we can beat any team we meet – so that work continues this weekend.”