Lightning's play-off hopes left in tatters
Milton Keynes Lightning's hopes of qualification for the end of season Elite League play-offs are fading fast after they took just three points from a possible eight following a punishing four games in five days.
Two matches on the road at Fife Flyers and Dundee Stars on Wednesday and Thursday reaped two points – after going down 4-3 at Kirkcaldy they won 4-3 in overtime at Stars.
That was followed by a disappointing 6-2 loss at home to Coventry Blaze on Saturday before a trip to Guildford Flames the next day ended with a 3-2 overtime loss. The defeats to Dundee and Coventry were particularly significant because they are teams rivalling Lightning for the eighth play-off place.
Ryan Lannon and Tim Wallace’s bottom placed charges ended the weekend nine points behind Blaze in eighth spot – Coventry having played three games less.
On Sunday Calle Ackered’s overtime strike secured victory for Guildford – the same player having also scored the solitary goal when the teams met at Planet Ice on Boxing Day.
Lightning took a 1-0 lead on the powerplay through Owen Griffiths after 5mins 58secs and held the lead for nearly half the game until Jordan Abt levelled on 36mins 26secs – despite the match being regularly interrupted by a series of penalty call by referees Stefan Hogarth and Matt Thompson.
Flames edged in front with a powerplay goal by Ben Davies with 9mins 51secs of regulation time left but Lightning hit back to equalise at 56mins 2secs thanks to Robbie Baillargeon. Ackered ended the game 3mins 33secs into the extra session.
The previous evening Coventry took a 3-0 lead before MK got on the scoresheet as Shawn Pauly, Alex Nikiforuk and Dillon Lawrence registered by the 24th minute – man of the match Georgs Golovkovs replying at 27mins 8secs. However Blaze then made it 4-1 within seconds at 28mins 3secs before the visitors were awarded a penalty shot, converted by Ben Lake 18 seconds later.
Goal number six didn’t come until 48mins 18secs – Nikiforuk bagging his second of the night before a second consolation strike from Golovkovs after 50mins 33secs.
Wallace led the way to secure two points for Lightning with an overtime winner at Dundee. But the point earned by Stars for an extra period loss could prove more valuable to them.
Fabrizio Ricci’s hit the opening goal for the hosts on 7mins 38secs. The reply from Lightning was swift – all of 28 seconds with Golovkovs’ behind the net pass finding Nelson Armstrong who shot through goalie Craig Holland’s legs.
Lightning were without the ill goalie Patrick Killeen and forward Cole Shudra – Adam Goss deputising between the pipes for a second consecutive game and performing heroics to pick up the man of the match award.
Robbie Baillargeon got the go ahead goal after 16mins 30secs – a one time blast from Andreas Valdix’s set up. Within 3mins 15secs of the start of the second session Stars levelled thanks to Mike Sullivan and again there was a quick response from the visitors. This time it took over a minute to reply but again it was Baillargeon the scorer with a top shelf effort at 24mins 37secs.
The equaliser came on 43mins 28secs with Francois Bouchard on the mark. From on then in until the end of regulation time neither side could break the deadlock. In the end it took Wallace’s shot to settle the encounter.
Lightning battled all the way at Fife Flyers on Wednesday – only to be undone by a shorthanded goal in the final 38 seconds.
The visitors were first on the scoresheet when Ivan Šijan blasted home from the blue line while Fife’s Danick Gauthier was sitting out an interference penalty – the goal timed at 6mins 14secs. Fife made the most of a powerplay to level on the powerplay through Paul Crowder on 10mins 21secs.
Golovkovs saw his effort deflected high into the Kirkcaldy arena before he got his reward on 17mins 42secs to make it 2-1 to MK before Jordan Buesa replied at 18mins 8secs.
Once again Fife conceded as Radek Meidl fired home from the left circle on 24mins 39secs.
MK quickly ran into penalty trouble within seconds of the start of the third session – Valdix being handed a four minute penalty for as high stick. Eventually the pressure told with Evan Bloodoff striking for a powerplay goal at 43mins 8secs to make it 3-3.
Fife incurred a next penalty as Gauthier was called for tripping at 57mins 57secs it was they who scored shorthanded through Carlo Finucci 38 seconds from the buzzer to win the game.