Peterborough Phantoms were masters of their own downfall when condemned to derby defeat last night (December 27).
The city side were unable to complete a 24-hour double over arch-rivals Milton Keynes when suffering a 5-0 reverse on home ice.
The damage was done during an error-strewn second period in which the visitors were gifted four of their goals to turn a tight English Premier League duel into one-way traffic.
It was a disappointing downturn in fortunes following a memorable triumph in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day, but also an outcome which was completely understandable.
Phantoms were without two key forwards (classy import Darius Pliskauskas and workaholic Will Weldon were both hurt the previous night) while another one admirably dressed despite being an injury victim himself (Marc Levers shrugged off the pain of a hernia to make his first appearance for five weeks).
“You can get through games against many teams when not at your best and without important players,” admitted Koulikov.
“But Milton Keynes are one of the sides when you need to have everyone available and get the gameplan exactly right.
“We had a great result at their place on Boxing Day, but unfortunately it came at a cost with a couple of injuries.
“It is always disappointing to be beaten at home, but I would certainly have settled for a 50 per-cent return against the team I expect to win the league.
“We’ve done a lot better than in the equivalent games last season when we lost both without managing to score a goal.”
Despite being short on man-power, Phantoms were more than a match for the visitors in the opening session when Lightning shot-stopper Przemyslaw Odrobny was the busier of the two netminders.
But it was a completely different story in the middle stanza as Lightning moved in for the kill after Craig Scott pounced for a powerplay opener 65 seconds after the resumption.
He gratefully slammed in a loose puck in the crease after an initial shot from fellow former Phantoms man, Milan Baranyk, had agonisingly squirmed through the legs of Janis Auzins.
The lead was doubled when possession was surrendered by the boards and Tom Carlon – yet another former Peterborough man in the opposing ranks – beat Auzins at his near post.
And eight seconds before the mid-point of the match, Lightning were in total control thanks to Sam Jones, who buried the puck at the back post when visiting players were queueing up to apply the final touch.
And a short-handed strike from Antti Holli, who breezed in to beat Auzins in a one-on-one situation after blocking a Tom Norton shot, rubbed salt into the wounds.
Phantoms were back on the front foot in the final session when they hogged the puck, but often failed to move it quickly or intelligently enough to trouble Odrobny.
The visiting goaltender remained unbeaten to earn a 43-shot shut-out while Adam Long, who had been sent on to replace Auzins for the third period, was beaten late on by Carlon’s second of the night.
Koulikov added: “The second period was a tough one for us. We stepped away from our gameplan to chase the game and ended up conceding more goals as a result.
“I think it is fair to say that at least three of the MK goals were avoidable and we need to ensure we are smarter tactically to stop that happening again.”
Phantoms remain fourth in the EPL standings, but will jump into third place with a victory at lowly Bracknell on Thursday (December 29, 8pm).
21:05 Scott (PP) ass: Baranyk/Emersic
27:43 Carlon ass: Carr/Baranyk
29:52 Jones ass: Hook/Holli
37:36 Holli (SH) unassisted
58:59 Carlon ass: Baranyk/Christie
PHANTOMS – Martins Susters
MILTON KEYNES – Przemyslaw Odrobny