Lightning’s third place hopes dealt a blow

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Lightning’s hopes of overtaking Guildford Flames in the race for third spot in the English Premier League were dented on Sunday when they went down 7-4 at the Spectrum Centre.

The loss came just 24 hours after the city outfit had boosted the chances of a top three position by beating Flames at Coventry Skydome.

Lightning just edged out Guildford Flames by the odd goal in 13 on Saturday – the game decided on a penalty shoot out after overtime failed to separate the two challengers.

Flames dealt an early shock when Tom Duggan beat goalie Stephen Wall after just 44 seconds.

But by the first interval it was Lightning who were 2-1 ahead. Janne Jokila hit the leveller on the powerplay at 13mins 6secs from Blaz Emersic’s pass while Neil Liddiard was in the sin bin for tripping Grant McPherson.

Just 1min 50secs before the break Adam Carr set up Stan Lascek to register to make it 2-1.

The middle period had hardly got underway when David Longstaff was sent to the sin bin for tripping Lascek and the hosts took the chance to extend their lead to two goals. Jokila was on target again from a narrow angle on the right at 25mins 16secs after Carr made a great pass.

Branislav Kvetan caught Wall unawares with a rocket from the blue line after 27mins 19secs before, only seven seconds later, Lewis Christie supplied Lascek to make it 4-2.

A tripping penalty on Michael Farn proved costly for Lightning – player coach Paul Dixon firing through traffic from the blue line to make it 4-3.

But yet again Lightning extended the gap as Jordan Cownie’s burst of speed up the left saw him feed Ross Bowers to smash the puck in after 36mins 41secs.

The third period was only 1min 51secs old when Flames drew closer again with Ben Campbell the scorer.

The visitors then made the most of a defensive mix up with Liddiard supplying Martin Opatovsky for the leveller after 48mins 26secs.

Lightning looked to be heading for a disappointing defeat when Dean Holland made it 6-5 at 57mins 25secs.

But they hadn’t reckoned with Lascek who, assisted by Leigh Jamieson, grabbed the equaliser with 1min 15secs of regulation time left, sending the game into overtime which failed to produce a winner.

Thus penalties were called for and, after four shots apiece, Carr scored the game deciding goal.

In Surrey the following day Lightning slipped to a 3-1 deficit at the first break – conceding two goals in the first five minutes of play.

Opatovsky put Flames in front after 3mins 9secs before Duggan set up Longstaff for the home team’s second 58 seconds later.

Lightning’s coaching staff were not happy and called an exceptionally early time out just before the 10 minute mark.

It may have served to put a spark into the game for within three minutes Flames’ Nicky Watt did battle with McPherson – Bowers also picking up a roughing penalty.

When Liddiard was despatched to the sin bin for hooking Lightning made the most of it with Jokila the provider for Lascek to get his fourth goal of the weekend after 15mins 32secs.

But the period ended with Lightning two goals behind after Marcus Kristofferson beat goalie Stephen Wall with 1min 10secs left.

Wall was replaced by Jordan Hedley in goal for the start of the second session and 3mins 46secs into the period Lightning cut the gap to one goal as Lascek got the assist on a Jamieson strike.

Once more though Flames put daylight between the teams, with Kristofferson registering from Longstaff at 26mins 15secs.

Kristofferson then added a short handed goal on 30 mins 27secs while Campbell was sitting out a hooking penalty before a fightback by Lightning which saw Tom Carlon score on a powerplay after 32mins 8secs and Blaz Emersic, supplied by Lascek, make it 5-4 after 35mins 44secs.

The visitors went into the third session with real hope of pulling the game back but it was not to be with Watt taking Flames’ tally to six on 44mins 26secs before Opatovsky extended the gap to three goals after 55mins 1secs.

Lascek’s annoyance at the goal earned him his dismissal from the game by referee, Dave Cloutman – not helping Lightning’s cause and they were unable to stage any kind of late rally as Flames retained a 7-4 lead.