An incredible Liam Stewart goal just two minutes 17 seconds from the final buzzer gave Milton Keynes Lightning a hard-earned 3-2 win over local rivals Peterborough Phantoms at Planet Ice on Saturday.

In a goalmouth scramble captain Russ Cowley found Stewart at the right hand post. But with goalie Jordan Marr’s leg outstretched, Stewart’s first attempt was blocked, only for the puck to rebound behind the outside of the post.

Stewart, realising the puck was just behind his skate, went down on his knees to turn and scoop the puck into the net through the narrowest of gaps – Phantoms’ Glenn Billing and Tom Norton helpless to stop him sending the home crowd into raptures.

New import signing Tim Wallace, making his second debut for MK, was given a roaring welcome by the loud crowd who were treated to one of the closest games of the season.

Wallace who is also Director of Hockey Development, joined Stewart and Cowley on the first line and made his mark on the game with a superb strike shortly before the second break. He last played for and joint-coached MK during their final Elite League campaign.

The first period ended goalless but that did not mean there was a lack of incidents – Lightning having by far the best of the play. In the sixth minute, Stewart advanced up the left wing but his shot ended wide of target. Shortly after Sam Talbot had his round the net attempt stopped and then, fed by Bobby Chamberlain, Marr thwarted him again.

In the 10th minute man of the match for Phantoms, Marr saved a good Wallace shot with his glove. There was an anxious moment when Milique Martelly lost possession in the neutral zone but the danger was snuffed out before, in the final minute, Glenn Billing had a fine chance stopped by netminder Matt Smital.

Adam Laishram, on a line with Leigh Jamieson and Hallden Barnes Garner, was blocked early in the second period ahead of Duncan Speirs seeing his effort blocked by Smital.

Defenceman James Griffin went on attack and crossing the face of goal became entangled with Marr, preventing the goalie from being able to stop a shot by Chamberlain ending in the net. The ‘goal’ was correctly ruled out for goalie interference.

A couple of minutes later there was a tremendous crash on the boards as Stewart clashed with Will Weldon. The Peterborough man took exception to the thumping body check and dropped the gloves to do battle with Stewart who was the clear winner, although both players ended up in their sin bins for five minutes on fighting penalties at 30mins 40secs.

A little over a minute later MK took the lead when Sean Norris set up Talbot to scramble the puck across the line on 31mins 59secs. The advantage lasted less than four minutes as Phantoms levelled with Morgan Clarke-Pizzo shooting through traffic to make it 1-1 at 35mins 14secs.

However, Lightning were back in front a minute or so later when Cowley’s pass reached Wallace out on the right to blast home decisively on 36mins 21secs. Despite that the second session ended all square thanks to the combined efforts of Speirs, the scorer, and Norton with Smital appearing not to realise the puck had crossed the goal line at 38mns 27secs.

Five minutes into the third session Norris was hauled down by Clarke-Pizzo as he advanced on goal – the officials immediately awarded a penalty shot that, unfortunately, Norris was unable to put past Marr.

Both sides stepped up their attempts to seal the points as the encounter went into its latter stages. Talbot failed to beat Marr with a back-stick shot ahead of Cowley, Stewart and Wallace all combining to put pressure on the Phantoms goal.

A weak Speirs shot was pushed past the post by Smital while, moments later, Jamieson’s bid to set up Laishram ended with another blocked shot. As the action swung to the other end of the ice Clarke-Pizzo’s drive was stopped by Smital.

Just as it looked the game was headlining for overtime – and possibly a penalty shoot-out – Stewart turned on the style with an unorthodox route to clinch the winner while on his knees at 57mins 43secs.

Yet that was not end of matters – Talbot was caught slashing Clarke-Pizzo with 1min 18secs remaining. That led to an immediate timeout by Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov and the withdrawal of Marr for a six on four skater powerplay.

But MK held firm and went close to scoring on the empty net as they saw out the remainder of the game a man down for two valuable points to ensure they finished the weekend in third place in the league.

Man of the match: Liam Stewart.