Battle bruised Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning eventually succumbed to Nottingham Panthers by a 7-3 scoreline but only after they led 3-1 at MK Arena on Sunday.
Already missing injured Tommy Mele and Kyle Essery the home outfit lost the services of netminder Miika Wiikman half way through the game when he had to be helped off after a collision in front of his net.
In addition Denny Kearney was absent from much of the middle period while his head was bandaged in another clash. He returned to the action just before the second break.
However while the encounter wasn’t a particularly physical affair the injuries – especially that to Wiikman – swung the game in Panthers’ favour. Icing four lines to Lightning’s three or fewer the visitors took command from early in the third session once they had wiped out MK’s lead and gone in front.
A high sticking call on captain Kevin King gave Nottingham the chance to go ahead on the powerplay when Jeff Brown set up Raphael Bussieres to find a gap to Wiikman’s right on 12mins 32secs.
When Yann Sauve was sin binned for slashing Kearney with 2mins 58secs of the first session remaining, Lightning took just 28 seconds to level the tallies as Carl Hudson took King’s pass to smash the puck past goalie Michael Garnett from long range.
In the dying seconds of the period Kearney looked to be the victim as he was flattened by Steven Lee behind the Nottingham goal but instead it was the MK man who received a holding penalty. That gave Nottingham a powerplay which spilled over to the middle session – Lightning surviving the short-handed spell.
But Kearney was then ruled out of the action for a long spell in the second period, receiving treatment on the bench before retiring to the changing room.
A further powerplay came MK’s way when Tim Billingsley was caught cross checking James Griffin and they made the most of it as Quin Pompi set up Francis Verreault-Paul to blast the puck high to the right of Garnett at 25mins 59secs.
Lightning sought to press their advantage and stretched the lead to two when Verreault-Paul’s behind the net pass was crashed home by Guillaume Doucet on 28mins 38secs to make it 3-1.
But MK’s momentum was interrupted shortly afterwards when Wiikman went down in a clash and had to be helped off the ice. His replacement, Jordan Hedley was soon in the thick of things, making a couple of good saves before Evan Mosey and Mathieu Gagnon combined to cut the Panthers’ deficit at 33mins 7secs.
Lightning held a slender lead at the second break but although Kearney resumed his place on the first line in the final session it was not long before Nottingham equalised through Dan Spang at 44mins 24secs and went in front 2mins 2secs later as Ollie Betteridge found the net.
The game slipped further away from MK when Nottingham scored short-handed through Sauve after 53mins 39secs while Robert Farmer was serving time for a high stick.
Lightning’s misery was compounded when Alexander Mokshantsev wrapped up the Panthers’ tally with exactly one minute to go to make it 7-3.
Man of the match: Denny Kearney.