MK Lightning threw away a three goal lead to go down 4-3 to Sheffield Steeldogs in a penalty shootout at MK Arena on Sunday.
Few fans could believe their eyes as Steeldogs hit back after the hosts looked comfortable as they established a three goal advantage inside 22 minutes.
It looked to be only a matter of time before Lightning added to that total.
Instead Steeldogs upped their game and from the halfway stage it was they who had the better of the play – retrieving two goals of the deficit by the second interval before, almost inevitably, levelling with just over seven minutes of regulation time remaining.
The loss completed a doubly disappointing weekend for Pete Russell’s outfit who were also defeated 3-2 in a shootout at Basingstoke Bison on Saturday – after taking a 1-0 lead.
Lightning have now won just two of the last nine games – a dip in form which is puzzling given the 11 wins they achieved in their first 15 encounters.
The weekend games saw the debut of new Finnish defenceman Martti Jarventie who replaced axed Slovakian Rene Jarolin last week. Jarventie showed some promise, demonstrating that he’s not afraid to go in hard when necessary.
But Lightning’s lack of firepower, especially from the import forwards, must remain a concern for Russell and both Marko Luomala and Markku Tahtinen will be looking to increase their scoring rate.
A pair of shorthanded goals put the city outfit two goals to the good at the first break against Sheffield – and it was no less than they deserved having dominated the opening 20 minutes.
It was a hooking penalty on Grant McPherson in the 16th minute that provided the spark for the hosts with captain Adam Carr seizing on a loose puck in front of the Sheffield goal and firing low into the net at 18mins 20secs.
Less than 30 seconds later Michael Farn started the move which saw Tahtinen feed Luomala for a long range blast from the left for a 2-0 score at 18mins 48secs.
When a brilliant piece of interplay between Blaz Emersic and Jordan Cownie resulted in the Slovenian sending in the third goal on 21mins 42secs home fans began to relax, thinking there was plenty to more to come from Lightning.
But then Steeldogs turned on the gas after about the midway mark and Lightning were suddenly on the back foot.
Goalie Jordan Marr made an excellent double save from Lubimor Korhon and Ben Morgan but could not stop Korhon from opening his team’s account on 36mins 39secs.
Just over a minute later the gap was reduced to one when Ashley Calvert’s pass from the right was sent into the net by Greg Wood at 37mins 55secs.
Suddenly things looked less comfortable for Lightning and they needed an early third period goal to steady the ship. It didn’t come with Leigh Jamieson firing wide before Emersic had a great effort saved while his team were shorthanded.
Eventually a neat pass from Arnoldas Bosas on the left reached Tom Squires to equalise at 52mins 55secs – there was a certain inevitability about the goal as soon as the Lithuanian made the cross.
With no further goals overtime was necessary – again producing no more scoring. The most notable event was the dismissal of Jamieson on a five minutes plus game penalty for a high stick – ruling him out of the shootout which was decided on a sudden death goal for the visitors by former MK forward Stan Lascek.
The previous day at Basingstoke the Cownie-Emersic-Hook line came up with the goods to open the scoring after 21mins 37secs – the Cownie the man on the mark.
But the lead did not last long as Kurt Reynolds sent Joe Greener clear to equalise on 25mins 51secs.
An unassisted Tomas Karpov strike after 37mins 52secs put Bison in front – and that signalled the end of goalie Dean Skinns’ tenure in goal with Marr replacing him.
Luomala and Tahtinen had a hand when Jamieson gave Lightning hope with the leveller 3mins 18secs into the final session but neither the travellers, nor the hosts, could find the net again in regulation time. Therefore overtime was called for – again it remained goalless.
Joe Rand and Ciaran Long converted their penalty shots while Lightning failed to score, giving Bison the two points and the visitors one.