A vastly improved Lightning came within 1min 46secs of their first league four point weekend since the beginning of November when they eventually lost in overtime at Sheffield Steeldogs on Sunday.
Twenty four hours earlier they had shown all the passion, pace and patience their fans knew they had with a 7-2 destruction of Steeldogs at MK Arena.
And for most of the return encounter at IceSheffield they managed to hold on to a one goal lead following a Blaz Emersic powerplay strike on 5mins 51secs.
The turning point came when Milan Kostourek was penalised for elbowing his opponent in the 57th minute - Janis Ozolins giving the Steeldogs a lifeline with a goal on the powerplay at 58mins 14secs.
It was a cruel blow to Nick Poole’s men who had worked hard to preserve their advantage.
With the game tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation time the clash went into overtime where the visitors were downed with an unassisted Lee Haywood goal just 1min 23secs into the extra five minutes.
What had already been a feisty game ended with a ten misconduct penalty for Kostourek and the same decisions given against Steeldogs’ Lloyd Gibson, Tom Barry and Cameron Bailey. Earlier, in separate incidents, Lightning’s Leigh Jamieson and the home outfit’s player coach cum resident clown, Andre Payette, were thrown out with match penalties for roughing and spearing respectively.
It was no surprise that the Sheffield game was a physical affair for Payette had picked up a ten minute misconduct penalty near the end of the previous evening’s game in Milton Keynes.
In one of the most amusing incidents for a long time Chris Wiggins was lined up facing Payette for a centre ice face off following Lightning’s sixth goal. Wiggins teased Payette by putting his skates across the centre line - in contravention of the rules. Payette whinged to referee Roman Szucs who promptly handed him a misconduct call, prematurely ending his game.
Wiggins, who was not penalised, turned to the crowd, laughed and then put his thumb up to the Lightning bench!
It was a rare moment of humour because the lumbering veteran Payette’s childish antics have become boring over the years. It was probably just as well he was not dismissed earlier in Saturday’s meeting because his charges play better without him on the ice.
Sheffield had taken the lead on 5mins 51secs when a Ben Morgan assisted shot by Andrew Hirst eluded goalie Stephen Wall.
Lightning gave as good as they got for the rest of the first period but had to wait until Kostourek’s pass on the powerplay found Adam Carr to equalise at 27mins 43secs - Payette serving two minutes for cross checking Emersic at the time.
Grant McPherson who had already had a dust up with Payette in the warm-up made it 2-1 as he took Carr’s behind the net pass to fire home at 35mins 2secs.
The hosts tightened their grip on the game in the third period but didn’t add to the tally until Emersic sent Lewis Hook away up the left. His cross found Jordan Cownie to register at 48mins 58secs.
Jamieson made it 4-1 with a solo effort at 50mins exactly before Lewis Bell got Steeldogs’ second on with 2mins 50secs remaining. But then Hook registered from Cownie at 57mins 28secs with Kostourek inflicting more misery 19 seconds later.
With 6.9 seconds left Mark Curilla rounded netminder Dalibor Sedlar to complete the home side’s tally.
Almost inevitably it was Payette who cost his players an early Lightning lead at Sheffield the next day. He was in the sin bin for cross checking when Hook fed Emersic to score.
The fact that the visitors could not score again eventually came back to bite them when Kostourek was penalised with less than three minutes remaining - Hirst the provider for Ozolins to level to send the game into overtime and ultimately a win for Steeldogs. The only consolation was the one point for Lightning.