Edinburgh Capitals co-owner Scott Neil promised a battling display against league leaders the Cardiff Devils and that was exactly what we got at Murrayfield Ice Rink. The Capitals rounded off a gruelling four game week in positive fashion, gaining a point by virtue of a 3-2 overtime loss against the Devils to build off a win in Manchester on Saturday night.
Without the services of the injured Matt Tipoff, Edinburgh began this one fairly promisingly with Karel Hromas firing wide after good work by Ian Schultz and Jared Staal. But any early momentum was to be erased under five minutes into the game as Cardiff snatched the lead in rather fortunate circumstances.
Former Colorado Avalanche winger Patrick Bordeleau appeared to fan on an effort in front and though Travis Fullerton appeared to make the stop, the puck would end up in the back of the Edinburgh net. It was difficult to see who got the final touch as it may have hit an Edinburgh player last, but Chris Jones was credited with it as the Devils opened the scoring with 3:22 played.
The Capitals would force Ben Bowns into work for the first time as he diverted Pavel Vorobyev’s effort away, before an opportunistic break by the impressive Garrett Milan nearly brought reward. A cheap giveaway by Guillaume Doucet presented an opportunity for Edinburgh’s pocket rocket who fired over.
Up the other end a cheeky wrap around try by Devils player/coach Andrew Lord nearly had the desired effect as Fullerton made a smart stop sprawling out in front to deny Cardiff a quick second.
But Edinburgh were growing into the contest with a trademark Michal Dobron slap shot forcing a save following good work by Hromas to fashion the chance. Yevgeni Fyodorov was next to go close, firing narrowly wide after good work from Rihards Grigors at the blue line.
The visitors would have a couple of chances of their own with David Brine forcing Fullerton into a save after the Devils had pounced on a Capitals line-change. Matthew Myers then went close after a neat Lord feed as Edinburgh survived.
Fullerton had to be at his agile best to deny the league leaders a second when Joey Haddad’s shot hit the backboards and presented itself for Patrick Asselin on the rebound, but Cardiff failed to cash in.
It proved to a pivotal moment as within minutes the Capitals had drawn themselves level with 6:10 remaining in the opening period. It owed much to the work of the speedy Milan who laid on a square pass in the vicinity of both Mason Wilgosh and Schultz. And when the chance presented itself for the latter out in front, Schultz made no mistake to clinically finish beyond Bowns for his 18th goal of the season.
The tide had now turned with Edinburgh firmly on the front foot. Wave after wave of attacks were launched as the Capitals finished the period strongly with the bit firmly between their teeth.
Michael D’Orazio would go close after Jay King’s pass at the blue line, only to find Bowns in the way. On their next series Hromas would be twice denied by Bowns saves from a tight angle as the home side threatened a second.
It nearly arrived when Fyodorov raced through with Hromas for company, but the Russian forward inextricably went alone when it looked as if Hromas was better placed, only finding the glove of Bowns.
As it happens goal number two would arrive before the end of the first period. It was all the work of Vorobyev harrying behind the Devils net before playing a square pass across the face of the Cardiff net. It looked innocuous enough before it crashed into the skate of an unfortunate Devils defender and flew into the net with 2:03 to go.
It was a stroke of fortune for Edinburgh and one of misfortune for the visitors, but Edinburgh were not likely to care given their current predicament and desperation for points. They’ll take goals in whatever way they can get them as they made their pressure count in clinical fashion, Vorobyev netting his 20th goal of the season in all competitions in the process.
You sensed the Devils would come out firing in the second frame and they duly did with Mark Richardson forcing a save just fifteen seconds into the middle period, firing an effort after good work by Asselin.
Cardiff nearly struck back soon afterwards when Joey Martin’s delicious feed for Sean Bentivoglio nearly got the finish it deserved. Bentivoglio tried to round Fullerton only for the Capitals netminder to make the save. They had the puck in the net but only after the net had come off its moorings with Edinburgh surviving with their lead still intact.
Two quick efforts from Haddad and Scott Hotham came and went for the visitors before Vorobyev collected Fyodorov’s feed and forced Bowns to tip the puck past the post.
By the now the contest was firmly end to end with Martin flashing over from the high slot. But Cardiff nearly gifted Edinburgh a third as Bentivoglio’s stray pass was superbly cut out by Sean Beattie and the Brit forward, clearly making the most of his ice time in the absence of Tipoff, forced Bowns into work with a driven shot.
Edinburgh though survived a scare as Asselin, perfectly positioned at the back door, failed to locate the puck following a swift Devils move. It looked destined to end up in the back of the net only for Edinburgh to scramble the puck clear.
Chances for Jacob Johnston, who fired an effort through Lord’s legs, and a deflected Hromas effort would come and go as the Capitals searched for that crucial third goal that would give them a bit of breathing room.
But having done well to limit a high octane Cardiff side thanks to strong coverage and a solid forecheck, the Capitals would be undone in cruel circumstances as the Devils levelled with 3:30 to go in the second.
Edinburgh had done brilliantly to keep the shot count down but they could only stare helplessly as former NHLer Bordeleau fired a deflected effort past a wrong-footed Fullerton to knot the game up at two apiece, the third goal of the game via a ricochet of one sort or another.
Things nearly got worse as, thirteen seconds after the restart, the Capitals were handed the first penalty of the game with D’Orazio assessed a minor for delay of game with 3:17 to go.
One major chance presented itself for Andrew Hotham, but Edinburgh would emerge unscathed successfully killing off the penalty before going on the power play themselves before the period was out.
With Haddad in the box, the Capitals would have 1:01 left on the power play to begin the final 20. The visitors would kill of the penalty, but it was only a crucial block by Richardson that prevented further damage early in the third.
A clearance by Bowns was seized upon by Vorobyev and when he found Johnston things looked promising. GB international Richardson had other ideas, bravely throwing himself in front of the effort which looked like it was heading on target.
Cardiff would go close to grabbing their second lead of the night as Lord, turning away from the attentions of an Edinburgh defender, forced Fullerton into a save, before Asselin was tied up following a sweet feed by Bordeleau.
Spirited defending would again deny Edinburgh as Milan teed up Schultz, only for him to be denied out in front by another block by a Devils defender. It commenced a series of half chances for the hosts with Dobron firing a backhander over following good work by Taylor MacDougall.
A surprise slapshot from the neutral zone by D’Orazio threatened to catch out Bowns who saved with the blocker as Edinburgh upped the ante in search of the go ahead goal. A bullet drive from Staal following good work by Johnston again kept the Cardiff netminder on his toes as the game remained tantalisingly poised at 2-2.
But the save of the period would come soon afterwards. A slack bit of play by Dobron saw him cough up the puck, and once Bentivoglio fed Martin it looked a formality. Fullerton had other ideas though bailing out his team with a superb save with 3:30 to go.
This one was going to the wire but it certainly wasn’t petering out into overtime. Hotham’s shot crept narrowly wide for Cardiff before Staal forced a blocker save following good work by MacDougall.
A superb solo run by Layne Ulmer nearly saw the Devils snatch the two points, but the forward could only fire wide having done the hard part. One final chance came and went for Edinburgh as Wilgosh fired on net in the vicinity of a screened Bowns who did well to locate the puck and make the save.
A pulsating encounter in which the Capitals lived with the Devils for long periods would have to be decided by overtime with both sides locked together at 2-2.
Assured of one point but desperate for two, the hosts began the five minute 3-on-3 in promising fashion, without really forcing Bowns into work. And their inability to create too many clear cut openings would be punished on Cardiff’s first attack in overtime.
Haddad raced into the Capitals’ zone before firing an effort across Fullerton and into the corner to hand his title-chasing side the two points that moves them closer to a first Elite League title. It wasn’t without its controversy though as Edinburgh were incensed the goal shouldn’t have stood.
Johnston, MacDougall and Fullerton were berating the officials over something, possibly a goalie interference no call or suggestions that Johnston was being held as Haddad fired on net. But their protestations would fall on deaf ears as the Devils emerged with the win.
The Capitals put in one of their best performances of the season, defying the expected tiredness that one would expect to see at the back end of a four game week. It was a week that started in disastrous fashion with defeats in Coventry and Sheffield, but a win in Manchester and a point against table-topping Cardiff just about keep the Capitals in play-off contention.
Coventry’s win over Manchester though leaves them seven points adrift of the 8th and final play-off spot with just 8 games to go. They do however have games in hand over the Blaze but it’s the Dundee Stars who look the favourites at this stage.
There is no telling though how vital a point this might prove to be in their quest to make the play-offs. The Capitals are firm outsiders with their destiny out of their hands and needing their rivals to slip up. But a gritty performance and spirited showing will at least arrest fears about the level of effort and application and should make for an interesting fight to the wire.
Capitals man of the match Garrett Milan continued his fine recent individual displays and was pleased with the return of three points from four from over the weekend, despite the obvious disappointment of defeat in Coventry earlier in the week.
“It was tough losing in Coventry [on Tuesday night] and we wanted to come back with a vengeance this week and I think we did a pretty good job. Our team is good when we go into games loose and not expecting a whole lot. We were prepared for sure going into both these games [this weekend] but we didn’t know what was going to happen, so to come out with three points out of four is big for us this week.
“Four games in six days is actually good for the guys. We get in a rhythm, we’re used to playing right now and I think all of the guys are just kind of riding it out right now. Everyone’s ready and fresh to play in games, especially when you’re feeling good after two games you want to keep playing right away.
“Obviously you want team success to come first,” said Milan when referencing his hot streak and man of the match performance. “Personal success is always great. You hope for the team to win and then to have the individual stats is good for me for sure.
“When we didn’t have a game last weekend, Dundee won two straight there against Fife which was tough for us. It definitely puts us behind the eight ball play-off wise but you never know in this league. If we have two big wins next week we’re right back in it again, so we’re just going in, game by game, and looking for the two points every time we play.”