Forget the first 55 minutes – all the drama came, basketball match-style, in the final five as Milton Keynes Lightning bagged two late goals to kill off Dundee Stars’ challenge to secure a 3-0 win at Planet Ice on Saturday.
It was Lightning’s first ever Elite League home shut out as netminder Patrick Killeen earned the man of the match award for his team, while Stars’ stopper, Pontus Sjogren, took the award for his side. MK’s only other shut out was in a 3-0 win at Edinburgh Capitals in February.
It was Lightning’s only game of the weekend – next up they entertain Cardiff Devils in a rare Thursday match facing off at 7.30pm before two away matches next weekend at Nottingham Panthers and Coventry Blaze. Following that there are Christmas clashes with Guildford Flames. The home Boxing Day game is at 6pm with return encounter at 7pm the next day.
On Saturday Lightning had a slender one goal advantage going into the third period and spent much of the final 20 minutes short-handed. However Stars could not capitalise with Lightning defending the short-handed spells like Trojans.
With just over five minutes remaining Dundee’s lively fans – the most vocal and friendly to visit Milton Keynes this season – were celebrating an equaliser. However their joy was short-lived because officials Stefan Hogarth and Chris Wells washed out the ‘goal’ after consulting a video replay.
Four seconds after a Lightning timeout Martin Mazanec was penalised for roughing in front of the home goal. But instead of Stars taking advantage it was player coach Tim Wallace who went on a raid on Sjogren’s goal – dummying the goalie before shooting through his legs at 57mins 50secs.
In a desperate attempt to salvage at least a point the Scots visitors withdrew Sjogren – and that was enough to allow Lightning to cement victory with an empty net strike from Georgs Golovkovs on 58mins 15secs.
By comparison the first period was a tame affair with little of note to challenge either goalie – indeed there were no clear cut shooting opportunities in the first five minutes. It was not until Robbie Baillargeon and Petr Chaloupka clashed and were penalised for holding that Shawn Boutin was able to test Killeen with a shot from the right.
A defensive error then let Lukas Lundvald in for an effort which Killeen was able to deal with ahead of Wallace setting up Clay Anderson with a blast which Sjogren blocked.
Stars ended the period a man short after Connor Cox was called for interference – the penalty lasting 20 seconds into the middle session with no consequence to the scoreline.
The go ahead goal came on 21mins 42secs while Matt Marquardt was serving time for hooking – Baillargeon blasting first time into the net from a behind the net pass – Michael Fine and Andreas Valdix taking the assists.
Lightning survived a 25th minute on Wallace for an illegal stick – Stars going closest when Matt Bissonnette tried unsuccessfully to deflect a long range pass into the net. Back at even strength Chris Inglis tried to beat Killeen with a long range rocket with no result.
They had no further luck when James Griffin was sidelined for slashing – Lukas Lundvald’s effort was dealt with easily by the MK stopper.
With just over three minutes to the second buzzer Lightning thought they had scored a second goal – but the attempt was ruled out due to a high stick and so the period ended with just one goal separating the sides.
As the third period began it was Stars who were asking the questions – mainly because of a series of penalties called on Ivan Šijan, Fine (twice) and then Mazanec. But still Stars could not find a way through – on a different night they might had more success as Lightning continued their recent improvement with another home victory.