A battle bruised Milton Keynes Lightning’s injury problems mounted on Sunday when they lost netminder Miika Wiikman half way through their home clash with Nottingham Panthers.
Lightning eventually lost 7-3 after leading the game 3-1 at one stage. It completed a disappointing weekend for the team who were defeated 3-1 at Manchester Storm the previous evening, meaning the team have won just once in 11 encounters.
The hosts were already missing injured Tommy Mele and Kyle Essery the home outfit when Wiikman had to be helped off after a collision in front of his net.
In addition Denny Kearney was absent from much of the middle period while his head was bandaged in another clash. He returned to the action just before the second break.
However while the encounter wasn’t a particularly physical affair the injuries – especially that to Wiikman – swung the game in Panthers’ favour. Icing four lines to Lightning’s three or fewer the visitors took command from early in the third session.
A high sticking call on captain Kevin King saw Nottingham go ahead on the powerplay through Raphael Bussieres on 12mins 32secs.
When Yann Sauve was sin binned for slashing Kearney with 2mins 58secs of the first session remaining, Lightning took just 28 seconds to level the tallies as Carl Hudson smashed home past goalie Michael Garnett from long range.
In the dying seconds of the period Kearney looked to be the victim as he was flattened by Steven Lee behind the Nottingham goal but instead it was the MK man who received a holding penalty.
Kearney was then ruled out of the action for a long spell in the second period, receiving treatment on the bench before retiring to the changing room.
MK made the most of a penalty on Tim Billingsley when Francis Verreault-Paul blasted the puck high into the goal at 25mins 59secs.
Lightning stretched the lead to two when Verreault-Paul’s behind the net pass was crashed home by Guillaume Doucet on 28mins 38secs to make it 3-1.
Shortly after Wiikman went down in a clash and had to be helped off the ice. His replacement, Jordan Hedley made a couple of good saves before Evan Mosey and Mathieu Gagnon combined to cut the Panthers’ deficit at 33mins 7secs.
Lightning held a slender lead at the second break but although Kearney resumed his place on the first line in the final session it was not long before Nottingham equalised through Dan Spang at 44mins 24secs and went in front 2mins 2secs later thanks to Ollie Betteridge.
Nottingham scored short-handed through Sauve after 53mins 39secs before Alexander Mokshantsev wrapped up the Panthers’ tally with exactly one minute to go to make it 7-3.
At Manchester the previous night Milton Keynes Lightning fell conceded two first period goals from which they never really recovered.
The visitors welcomed defenceman Paul Phillips back to the line-up after injury as Ciaran Long opened the scoring for Storm after 6mins 57secs.
Lightning were handed a powerplay inside the final 75 seconds of the first session but instead it was Storm who found the target short-handed when Luke Moffatt scored one second from the buzzer.
The travellers survived a last minute second period penalty on Evan Stoflet for roughing but they could not stop Manchester from going further ahead on 44mins 49secs when Mike Hammond beat Wiikman for a third time.
Going into the last 10 minutes Lightning’s hopes of recovery were dealt a blow when both Kearney and Alex Forbes were sin binned at the same time for cross checking and unsportsmanlike conduct. Back at full strength Lightning then had a ‘goal’ disallowed after a further video reply before a rebounding Wiikman save hit the crossbar but failed to cross the line.
With 2mins 27secs remaining Wiikman was pulled for the extra skater – resulting in a consolation goal for Lightning as Verreault-Paul claimed the final touch on a long range blast from Stoflet at 58mins 31secs.