Two third period goals in both encounters with local rivals Coventry Blaze wrecked any chance of victory for Milton Keynes Lightning at the weekend.
A pair of goals just over a minute knocked the stuffing out of Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning as they went down 6-3 to local rivals Coventry Blaze at Planet Ice on Saturday. And on Sunday, two strikes in 29 seconds sent Tim Wallace’s side down to a 5-2 defeat.
Lightning’s ranks were ranks further depleted by the absence of Cole Shudra for both games. That meant Trevor Morbeck who had being playing in defence in recent weeks was moved back to his more familiar position among the forwards to allow three full lines to be iced.
On Saturday Coventry had three first period powerplays but were unable to take advantage of any of them. Indeed it was the hosts who scored first while Robbie Baillargeon was sitting out a cross checking penalty handed out after 1min 57secs. With 14 seconds remaining on the call, Michael Fine intercepted a Blaze play and went up the right before shooting through goalie Matt Hackett’s legs.
Martin Mazanec was in the sin bin on 23 minutes for hooking – and Blaze made Lightning pay through Alex Nikiforuk with the equaliser at 23mins 39secs.
Coventry edged in front after 36mins 17secs as Tim Crowder was able to pick his spot with goalie Patrick Killeen already committed on the ice.
Lightning ended the period all square thanks to Wallace who found himself in space to blast the puck past Hackett at 39mins 12secs.
The deciding moments of the game came on 44mins 45secs when Brit Luke Ferrara put Blaze back in front again. This time there was no reply from Lightning and 1min 15secs later Ben Lake fired home the visitors’ fourth strike.
Crowder found a gap to the left of Killeen to stretch Blaze’s lead further after 48mins 34secs.
With 1min 30secs to go Killeen was withdrawn in favour of the extra skater as MK went in search of a face saving third goal. It took just eight seconds for the move to backfire – Ross Venus saying thank you very much with an empty net goal.
There was some doubt in the officials’ minds about MK’s third goal just 52 seconds from the buzzer – however a quick video review showed Baillargeon’s effort had gone in the net and rebounded out so the third goal stood for Lightning in a 6-3 defeat.
There was no joy either at the Skydome when Lightning suffered a 5-2 loss, ensuring Blaze stayed in touch with the contest for the final Elite League play-off spot.
There was an early blow for Lightning and their large travelling army of fans when Owen Griffiths was penalised for tripping after 2mins 37secs. From the resulting powerplay Dillon Lawrence beat goalie Adam Goss, given a rare start in between the pipes.
Blaze extended their advantage on 18mins 34secs Thom Flodqvist put daylight in between the two sides going into the first break.
Flodqvist was back on the mark just 1min 4secs into the second period – giving Lightning a mountain to climb.
It was not until 1min 27secs into the third period that Hackett’s goal was breached as James Griffin atoned for two earlier penalties by making the pass for Baillargeon to send home.
But in a repeat of the previous night’s encounter a couple of quick Blaze goals removed any chance of an MK fightback. First Crowder scored on 48mins 53secs to make it 4-1 before Kevin Morris’ struck at 49mins 22secs.
By the time man of the match Georgs Golovkovs fired home unassisted at 51mins 20secs the game was already lost.