Lightning v Panthers
1 - 3
The Nottingham Panthers
The Nottingham Panthers only game of the weekend took place on Saturday night in Milton Keynes as they looked to avenge a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Lightning on their last trip down south.
Michael Garnett got the start in goal for the Panthers, who were without Brett Perlini, Tyler VanKleef, Kevin Henderson, Jon Rheault and Tommy Hughes, opposite Patrick Killeen for the Lightning.
Milton Keynes have been rejuvenated since Tim Wallace and Ryan Lannon took over the coaching duties from Doug McKay and their red hot form continued when Radek Meidl converted at the backdoor (3.57) to give the hosts an early 1-0 lead.
The hosts had a chance to double their lead whe Alex Bolduc was sent to the penalty box for interference (4.40) but Michael Garnett was on top of his game to keep them at bay. Luke Pither came close for the Panthers as the penalty kill came to close but Patrick Killeen flashed the leather to keep the home side in front.
A relentless Panthers' forecheck forced the Lightning to ice the puck and Mark Hurtubise won the resulting face-off back to Dylan Olsen who's wrist shot was tipped home by Alex Guptill (9.12) to put Nottingham on the board and tie the game at one.
Youngster Joe Hazeldine, playing out of position on the wing, drew a penalty late in the period (18.25) and with just six and a half seconds remaning in the period Robert Farmer struck on the powerplay. The GB forward skated from below the the goal line to the front of the net before depositing the puck over the shoulder of Patrick Killeen to give the Panthers the lead heading into the second period.
Michael had to be sharp at the start of the second period to deny the Lightning as they broke in two-on-one, play went down the other end and Jaynen Rissling saw his backhand effort saved by Killeen.
A bad bounce at the bounce at the Panthers' blueline saw Milton Keynes almost get a breakaway but Michael Garnett did just enough to put off the advancing forward as he flew out of his goal, ending up at the Lightning bench, before the Nottingham defence scrambled the puck clear.
The Panthers found themselves in some penalty trouble as the game passed the halfway stage. With the teams skating four-on-four a too many men call against Nottingham (31.28) saw the hosts enjoy 31 seconds of four-on-three powerplay time but they once again found Garnett in imperious form, the Panthers' netminder plucking the puck out of the air to deny MK on their best scoring opportunity.
Luke Pither stole the puck and skated in one-on-one short-handed but couldn't beat Killeen. Garnett had to be alert once more when Dylan Olsen was sent to the box for four minutes, the netminder stretching out the right pad to keep the Panthers' lead in tact.
Nottingham pressed for an insurance marker when they returned to full strength, Rissling and Hurtubise going close, but there was no further scoring in the period.
A quick give-and-go between Kovacs and Guptill early in the third period almost cushioned the Panthers' lead but Killeen stood firm.
Marek Tvrdon was sent to the box for slashing (43.50) and Michael Garnett was once again called upon to deny the Lightning making three saves, including a miraculous right pad save, in quick succession.
Man-of-the-match Alex Bolduc broke in short-handed but Killeen closed the five-hole before the hulking Panthers' forward could slide the puck through.
In search of an equaliser MK pulled their netminder with just over 2 minutes remaining but couldn't find a way through a resolute Panthers' defence. The game was iced when Marek Tvrdon scored his first as a Panther (58.19), after blocking a Lightning shot on the blueline to send himself in alone on the empty net.
Tyler Biggs and Marek Mazanec dropped the gloves before the hooter rang, the Panthers' man picking up a resounding win, and The Nottingham Panthers skated out of Milton Keynes with the two league points on offer.
Photo credit: Andy Burnham