Lightning dealt a title blow by rivals Peterborough
Old rivals Peterborough Phantoms dealt Smith Recycling MK Lightning's league title hopes a blow as they came away from MK Arena with a 3-2 win on Saturday.
Phantoms will see the result as a morale booster ahead of their meeting with Lightning in the final of the English Premier League Cup Final – the days for which the two legs are due to be announced shortly.
Lightning’s defeat in their only game of the weekend will not help their bid for the EPL title – top of the table Telford Tigers stretching their lead to nine points having played two games more.
At the second break the result looked as though it was going to come down to a mistake by one side or the other in the final period.
And that error came right after the end of a Lightning powerplay when they were caught on the offensive with Phantoms making a two on one break – James Archer beating netminder Przemy Odrobny to give the visitors a 2-1 lead at 44mins 10secs.
The result was effectively sealed just over three minutes later when Darius Pliskauskas’ shot was blocked but not held and Wehebe Darge was there to follow up from close range on 47mins 25secs.
Although Lightning narrowed the gap to one with a Frankie Bakrlik powerblast on 54mins 30secs after being awarded a five on three powerplay they were unable to find an equaliser to send the game into overtime. That was despite the withdrawal of Odrobny in favour of the extra skater with 25 seconds to go.
Phantoms led by a slender 1-0 margin at the end of the first period - despite being outshot by Lightning.
However many of the home outfit's attempts on goal were from long range and thus proved no trouble for a goalie of Janis Auzins' calibre.
When MK did get close to goal - as they did on a number of occasions - they could not make the final connection to get a decent shot away.
Pliskauskas produced the most promising of the early chances when he shot through traffic in the second minute but netminder Przemy Odrobny was equal to the effort.
It was a fifth minute penalty on Jordan Cownie for tripping in the Phantoms' defensive zone that led to the opening goal.
Lightning had been making a good effort at defending the powerplay but they could do nothing when James Ferrara blasted the puck from the blue line for recent returnee from Manchester Phoenix, Edgars Bebris, to deflect past Odrobny on 7mins 23s.
From then on Phantoms were able to soak up everything fired at them. In the 12th minute Lewis Hook beat two Peterborough players but was denied by Auzins at the decisive moment while Leigh Jamieson tried his luck from the blue line without success a minute later.
Michael Farn managed a shot from slightly closer in but there was still no luck.
Even when MK were given a five on three powerplay after Pliskauskas was penalised for illegal equipment and then the Martins Susters went for slashing Hook Phantoms' penalty kill units were able to deal with anything Lightning fired at them.
The closest the home side went was when an Antti Hölli blue liner was tipped over the bar by Tom Carlon before Milan Baranyk went close - but not close enough.
Pliskauskas almost made it 2-1 to the Cambridgeshire team 38 seconds into the middle period – going one on one with Odrobny only for the netminder to block his path to goal.
Lightning levelled 2mins 9secs after the restart after Leigh Jamieson’s initial shot was blocked but not held by Auzins – Cownie was in position to sweep up the rebound.
If home fans thought that was going to be the start of a Lightning recovery then they were wrong.
Twenty seconds later Bakrlik was sin binned for boarding James Ferrara. However Phantoms failed to get anything going on the powerplay.
Lightning tried to step up the gas with man of the match Blaz Emersic having his effort blocked ahead of Jamieson’s shot meeting a similar fate.
Phantoms called an unusually early timeout just after the mid-point of the game but it had little effect on the play for the remainder of the period at least.
Bakrlik was back in the sin bin for hooking in the 32nd minute – MK surviving the best Phantoms could offer in the shape of an Owen Griffiths attempt.
Pete Russell’s men began the third period on a powerplay resulting from a 39mins 40secs penalty on Ales Padelek for slashing Emersic.
Peterborough saw that off and also remained unscathed from a hooking penalty on Griffiths a couple of minutes later.
Immediately back at full strength they edged in front with Archer’s goal and compounded the misery thanks to Darge.
Bakrlik’s powerplay strike- scored while brothers James and Robert Ferrara were both in the penalty box - in the end proved no more than a consolation for Lightning.