Milton Keynes Lightning celebrated their first shut-out of the season when they defeated Edinburgh Capitals 3-0 at Murrayfield on Sunday – all the goals coming from British players.
Lewis Hook bagged a brace with Jonathan Boxill finishing off the tally with an empty net strike 22 seconds from the final buzzer.
It went some way to making up for the disappointment of the previous evening’s 5-2 home loss to Guildford Flames when Lightning went 4-0 behind before registering their first goal.
Sunday’s victory was Lightning’s third against anchor club Capitals this term and they will be looking to complete the series with another success when the Scots outfit visit MK Arena on Thursday next week.
Netminder Henry Pacl pulled off a number of fine saves to pick up the man of the match award as Lightning went past the 30 point mark in the table.
Once again Peter Russell’s outfit were short-staffed and they added two-way players Glenn Billing and Edward Knaggs – regulars for Peterborough Phantoms – to the line-up with both earning regular shifts against Capitals who had released second highest points scorer Pavel Vorobyev and defenceman Nikita Kolesnikovs in mid-week.
Lightning got the breakthrough with a goal initially credited to Billing but later changed to Hook – the supply coming from Francis Verreault-Paul and Doucet on 14mins 28secs.
The visitors added to their score on 29mins 53secs when Hook’s wrist shot beat goalie Tyler Beskorowany following Verreault-Paul and Doucet’s set up.
Lightning had no success on the powerplay after Rihards Grigors was sidelined for interference on Pacl in the third period and indeed there was no further score until Capitals pulled netminder Beskorowany following a 56th minute time out.
The visitors were reduced to four skaters with two and a half minutes to go thanks to a delay of the game penalty on Jonathan Boxill but it failed to give Edinburgh a consolation goal as they were denied by Pacl.
On his return to the ice Boxill immediately seized on a loose puck and fired it on the empty net for his third goal of the season to seal a satisfying 3-0 win.
The previous evening a spirited fightback proved to be fruitless as Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning went down fellow Elite League expansion team, Flames.
Short-benched Lightning were again missing Tommy Mele, Kyle Essery and Miika Wiikman, all injured, as well the suspended Denny Kearney and the departed Matt Nickerson.
The hosts started the game with players double shifting on ever changing forward lines before James Griffin switched from defence to offence to allow the lines to remain consistent. That came at the cost of reducing the number of defencemen to four.
By the time Lightning began to make any impression they were already four goals behind, having conceded three without reply in the opening period and falling further in arrears to an early second session powerplay strike.
Guildford capitalised after Christian Isackson was penalised for tripping in the seventh minute. Under pressure the hosts’ Pacl was drawn out of position by Jesse Craige when John Dunbar was able to tap into what was effectively an empty net at 8mins 35secs.
The visitors doubled their advantage on 12mins 49secs when Geoff Walker snapped up a rebound.
Before the period end Ian Watters blasted the puck wide of target to rebound off the boards behind the goal with the waiting John Dunbar who scored at 18mins 35secs.
Lightning were dealt another blow with Evan Stoflet consigned to the sin bin just 43 seconds after the restart, resulting in Flames’ fourth goal through Rhett Rachinski from close range after 21mins 34secs.
Flames goalie Chris Carrozzi was beaten for the first time when Paul Phillips supplied Kevin King to shoot in from the right on 28mins 20secs.
Guildford restored their four goal lead while Lightning were on a powerplay resulting from Ben Davies’ tripping penalty on Phillips. Kruise Reddick intercepted a Lightning play to race away to beat Pacl seven seconds from the interval, giving Flames a formidable 5-1 lead.
Peter Russell’s outfit gave home fans some vaguely brief hope 62seconds after the restart as Hook made the pass for Carl Hudson to break clear, dummying the keeper before shooting high into the goal to make it 5-2.
Despite Sunday’s win Lightning’s ambitions of earning a play-off spot now look slim.