LIGHTNING returned to winning ways at the weekend with much improved performances to see off Telford Tigers and Basingstoke Bison.
That came seven days after the city side crashed to back-to-back defeats against Guildford Flames and Manchester Phoenix, all but ending their hopes of retaining the title.
And with rivals Slough Jets chalking up two further wins of their own, and Bison victorious on Saturday, Lightning remain off the title pace in fifth spot in the English Premier League.
Tigers were easily despatched on Saturday at Planet Ice when Nick Poole’s team eased to an 8-2 win. Bison provided much stiffer opposition the next day as they came back from 2-0 down to force overtime, before Lightning won 4-3 after penalty shots.
Grant McPherson opened the scoring against Tigers when he took Michael Wales’ behind the net pass and shot past goalkeeper Martin Clarkson on 8mins 52secs.
Poole was the provider when he found Monir Kalgoum unmarked on the right of goal for the second strike at 15mins 25secs, before 55 seconds later Blaz Emersic made it 3-0 from Wales’ set up.
Tigers called a time out at this point, but that would have little effect as they failed to get enough shots on goal in the first and then second periods - outshot 35-10 by Lightning.
When Leigh Jamieson’s shot hit the boards behind the goal Gary Clarke was there to smash home the rebound after 24mins 42secs to extend the lead further.
Poor defending then allowed Matt Towalski to skate up the left side unchallenged to meet McPherson’s pass from the right to make it 5-0 on 35mins 53secs, before Josh Bruce at last got the visitors off the mark with a shot which Alex Mettam blocked, but failed to stop from trickling over the goal line at 38mins 39secs.
The only penalty of the game came on the buzzer at the end of the second period when Andre Smulter was sent to the sin bin for slashing.
But starting the third session a man light didn’t stop Lightning from adding to their tally within seven seconds of the start when Clarke netted on the first attack.
And Tigers’ misery was added to a few minutes later as Michael Farn fired from the blue line on 43mins 43secs through a crowd of players, with Clarkson not able to see the shot until it was too late.
Mettam saved but failed to hold Joe Henry’s shot as Tigers bagged their only other goal after 45mins 10secs, but that was cancelled out when Clarke found an unmarked Smulter for the eighth goal after 50mins 27secs.
In contrast to the Tigers game, Sunday’s match at Basingstoke saw numerous penalties called - with neither side able to make anything of any of them.
It took until 16 seconds from the first interval before either side could make a break through with the goal going to Lightning when Kalgoum was the provider for Poole to register.
They didn’t have to wait so long in the second period to net again when Emersic set up Clarke for his third goal of the weekend.
Both Farn and Lukas Zatopek then spent time in the sin bin for interference, but the Lightning penalty kill unit held firm to deny Bison a comeback at this stage.
It was not until the 45th minute that the home side got their first goal - an unassisted effort from Ben Davies. Ondrej Lauko, also unassisted, then got Bison back on terms after 54mins 44secs.
But parity did not last for long with captain Adam Carr edging Lightning back in front just eight seconds later.
However, Bison levelled again on 57mins 28secs through Viktor Kubenko to send the match into overtime which failed to separate the sides.
So it was to penalty shots, and Carr scored the only successful shot, with Emersic missing and Barry Hollyhead saving all three Bison shots.
This weekend sees Lightning face two difficult games as rivals Peterborough Phantoms visit on Saturday night before the city side go to Slough on Sunday.