Lightning cause an upset against high-flying Panthers

MK Lightning celebrate. Pic: Tony Sargent
MK Lightning celebrate. Pic: Tony Sargent

Nottingham Panthers may have had four lines of forwards and seven defencemen but in a true tale of David slaying Goliath little Milton Keynes Lightning didn’t let that minor inconvenience stop them pulling off the shock Elite League result of the evening at Planet Ice on Saturday.

The roof was still intact – just – after ‘Super Timmy’ Wallace went head to head with Panthers’ top scorer Alexander Guptil in the sudden penalty shoot out and fired in the winner to send the home fans delirious for a 4-3 victory.

MK Lightning celebrate. Pic: Tony Sargent

MK Lightning celebrate. Pic: Tony Sargent

It went a long way to making up for the 5-2 defeat at Fife Flyers on Friday when Lightning lost focus in the dying minutes after running the hosts close for most of the game.

On Saturday down to a bare bones squad of four defencemen (one of them really a forward) and three lines of forwards Lightning fully deserved their spoils for the sheer effort they put into an encounter in which few would have given them a chance.

Even when Wallace’s depleted outfit equalised with less than 15 minutes to go most fans wouldn’t have expected them to hold on to force the game into an overtime period which failed to resolve the battle. But tired legs held on – aided by the thunderous support of the home crowd – even as that equaliser seemed to jolt a hitherto complacent Panthers into greater efforts.

But having got so far Lightning were again in no mood to lie down and surrender to one of the ‘big boys’ of the Elite competition. With Patrick Killeen on his game in between the pipes Panthers were denied time and again. Having already made a fine block the stopper denied Robert Farmer, then Ollie Betteridge and then Tim Billingsley before Justin Kovacs’ effort met the same fate.

MK Lightning beat Nottingham Panthers. Pic: Tony Sargent

MK Lightning beat Nottingham Panthers. Pic: Tony Sargent

Robbie Baillargeon had a great chance to settle the issue with just over a minute to go but he failed to take it and in the final minute of regulation time Tommy Hughes tried his luck for Panthers with no success.

So overtime beckoned – five minutes passed in the blink of an eye before the first five penalty shots finished with the teams ending one apiece – Wallace’s the only success for MK.

Killeen then stood like a mountain to deny Guptil before Wallace wrapped up the two points with a deftly taken shot which sailed past Panthers’ goalie Michael Garnett.

Early on Lightning set out their intentions when David Norris fired them in front after 2mins 30secs, but it looked like a predictable result was on the cards following a hooking call on Trevor Morbeck as Panthers scored the powerplay with Luke Pither picking his spot past Killeen at 7mins 7secs.

On 14mins 18secs Kovacs made it 2-1 to the before MK replied on the powerplay through Baillargeon seven seconds from the first break.

On almost the halfway point of the game Brett Perlini added Panthers’ third and it was not until the 44th minute that Wallace was able to even things up to ultimately send the clash into overtime and penalties.

Fife claimed what looked to be a comfortable victory on Friday, despite Lightning only trailing by a solitary strike going into the last six minutes.

The teams were four on four following a pair of early penalties when Flyers scored through Brett Bulmer at 7mins 11secs.

The hosts held onto the one goal lead at the first break but it was soon wiped out thanks to a hooking call on Bulmer which gave Lightning the man advantage from which Baillargeon equalised at 21mins 56secs.

Unfortunately for the travellers parity did not last long with Flyers retaking the lead within two minutes when Mike Cazzola struck at 22mins 37secs.

Flyers stretched their lead thanks to Danick Gauthier on 47mins 9secs. Shortly afterwards Ricards Birzins was given two minutes in the cooler for tripping and on the powerplay MK again reduced the deficit with Baillargeon scoring again on 49mins 20secs.

Lightning conceded again after 53mins 55secs when Bulmer added his second goal and any hope of a late comeback by Lightning was then destroyed when James Griffin received two plus 10 for a check from behind with two and a half minutes to go. Fife’s Joe Basaraba registered on the powerplay at 57mins 3secs to make it 5-2