Despite leading on four separate occasions, the Edinburgh Capitals fell to a Jack Prince inspired Manchester Storm 6-4 at Murrayfield Ice Rink, a result that sees them miss the opportunity to close the gap on Coventry who currently occupy the eighth and final play-off spot.
Defeat at the SkyDome on Saturday night was undoubtedly a blow for a side already in must-win territory and they will be left kicking themselves following a crazy second period here, blowing a succession of leads against an efficient Storm side who rounded off a four-point weekend in the process.
Things did not begin too badly for Edinburgh and they were the ones asking all the questions in the early exchanges. Terrific persistence by Taylor MacDougall won the puck in deep for the hosts and when Jaroslav Hertl let fly from the blue line, a tip in front by the perfectly positioned Karel Hromas deserved more.
On their next series, captain Jacob Johnston threw the puck on net via a deflection that seemed to cause havoc in front of Mike Clemente, but Manchester survived unscathed. The same fate would befall Garrett Milan soon afterwards when he collected a feed from Michal Dobron and fired narrowly wide.
But the Capitals were dealt a warning up the other end. They say no two games are the same and this one, compared to the meeting between these sides a week earlier, was far more open than anticipated. Mark Heatley should have done better on a rebound after Adam Harding and Connor Varley had connected.
It would prove to be a costly missed opportunity for the Storm who found themselves behind within moments. It was the reward Edinburgh’s fast start deserved as MacDougall was on hand to redirect Hertl’s drive beyond Clemente for his 11th goal of the campaign with 3:09 played.
1-0 almost became two with first Mason Wilgosh firing wide after good build-up play by Matt Tipoff and Yevgeni Fyodorov, and then Hromas appeared to strike the bar after an Ian Schultz rush had fashioned a chance.
By now both sides were trading chances with Darian Dziurzynski flashing wide from a promising position. Manchester’s best chance to this point was yet to come though with Paul Swindlehurst cleverly using the boards to find Heatley but Travis Fullerton stood tall to direct away with the pad.
Edinburgh thought they had grabbed a second on their next series of note with Milan firing on net. The lamp behind the net was illuminated but the officials waved away the goal as the hosts searched for a second.
Jack Prince was next to go close for the Storm, on what would prove to a memorable night for the forward, as he collected Heatley’s inviting pass out in front but he couldn’t quite make the chance count.
Up the other end both Wilgosh and Hromas on a tipped effort from Hertl would fire narrowly wide as chances came and went for both teams in a frantic first frame.
The Capitals would however endure a frustrating night on the power play, going 0/2 in the first period. Undeterred by those missed opportunities, a terrific burst by Jay King created an opening for Schultz but Clemente was alert to make the save.
Schultz though would nearly gift Manchester a goal from nothing, uncharacteristically surrendering the puck at centre ice. And when the Storm worked it through the vacant space to Matt Bissonnette they ought to have done much better than simply firing wide from a promising position.
It was certainly a let-off for the home side and they would see a second power play chance end without reward despite forcing Clemente into a glove stop.
If the first period appeared frantic and breathless it certainly gave no indication of what lay in store in period two with the Capitals carrying over a slender 1-0 lead into the second frame.
Eight goals would be scored in the middle period but both teams will not reflect too fondly on their defensive work as both Edinburgh and Manchester seemed to break the others’ rearguard far too easily.
Following the Capitals’ lead, Manchester would net an early goal of their own to level proceedings with just over two minutes played. It all seemed rather innocuous and scrappy in truth, but the visitors were not likely to care. A rush from his own zone by Varley proved to be the catalyst as his shot ricocheted off Fullerton, appeared to hit Prince, and then dribbled over the line.
Both Staal and Pavel Vorobyev would fire efforts wide as Edinburgh sought to re-establish their lead. And they would not have to wait too long before they did. It owed a great deal to patient build-up as the Capitals worked it and manoeuvred the Storm out of position with Johnston finding space and driving an effort past Clemente who had gone post-to-post on the play, for 2-1 with 15:00 remaining.
But Edinburgh were nearly dealt an immediate blow as Manchester captain Trevor Johnson forced Fullerton into work with the pad, before Patrik Valcak was afforded far too much time to find former Capital Taylor Dickin who could only steer wide out in front.
A terrific run and cut-back by Milan nearly had Edinburgh further in front as Staal’s drive was met by Clemente’s pad.
And before long the Storm had hauled themselves level again. It was a mirror image Varley rush to the one that brought their first goal of the night, weaving into space before firing a backhander that Fullerton could only parry. Prince was on hand again to prod home from two-yards for 2-2 with 11:32 to go, proving that when you get bodies and pucks to the net you do get rewarded.
They were level for all of 13 seconds though. Wilgosh, virtually from the face-off, would restore Edinburgh’s lead as he flashed an effort up and over the shoulder of Clemente blocker side. It was the second consecutive weekend that the Canadian forward had struck, having found the net against the Storm last weekend.
But the crazy back and forth nature of the period was by now in full swing. Within a minute, Manchester would strike for a third time to knot the game up. It was far too easy from the Capitals’ perspective as Swindlehurst, playing as a forward in the absence of Cody Cartier, positioned himself in front to divert Valcak’s square pass home.
The visitors, clearly buoyed by those turn of events, should have grabbed the lead immediately. Bissonnette showed tremendous vision to find Swindlehurst at the backdoor but he fanned on the chance that would have handed the Storm their first lead of the night.
It would, momentarily at least, prove to be a costly miss for Manchester as the Capitals would grab the lead for a fourth time on the night. Johnston’s perfectly timed effort towards goal found the net, with MacDougall credited with his second of the game via a deflection with 6:59 to go.
That was far from the end of the action though. Edinburgh’s defensive vulnerabilities were sadly on show again as the Storm roared back just 29 seconds after the restart. The impressive Prince was unsurprisingly at the heart of it as he squared it invitingly for the arriving Heatley, and he rifled beyond Fullerton with consummate ease for 4-4 with 6:30 to go.
Stunned by those series of events, Manchester would snatch the lead for the first time in the game completing an incredible second period. Prince rounded off an impressive night’s work with his hat-trick, his fourth point of the game in the process, collecting Harding’s pass before firing home from in front.
Again it will not make for pleasant viewing from the hosts’ perspective as Fullerton could only parry the initial chance but could not locate the rebound, before Manchester capitalised following a mad scramble to fire home.
Undeterred by that setback, Edinburgh began period three fairly promisingly. Johnston forced Clemente into work from the high slot, before Milan and MacDougall combined to set up Staal for an effort.
The hosts were again unable to cash in on a third man advantage with Dobron’s slap shot as close as Edinburgh came to lighting the lamp.
But Manchester nearly capitalised themselves with Valcak’s effort tipped by Dickin and then Mario Trabucco could only steer wide from out in front as the visitors looked to add to their lead.
Edinburgh were still creating and squandering chances of their own however. Staal showed terrific persistence and vision to pick out Milan in front but, from a promising position, he could not quite collect the puck as Manchester cleared their lines.
Fullerton had to be alert to keep out Paul Phillips up the other end following neat work by Dickin to fashion the chance, while Prince nearly added to his haul as Fullerton made the stop.
The Capitals would go close through both Staal and Johnston, the first effort forcing Clemente into work with the pad before the latter’s try was gloved by the Manchester netminder.
They would survive one huge scare that would have iced the contest. A mad scramble out in front of Fullerton nearly brought reward for the Storm, before Bissonnette was unable to capitalise on a cheap Hertl turnover.
Edinburgh pulled Fullerton in favour of an extra skater, going empty net with a minute and change left. Schultz would go closest to forcing overtime but again Clemente would prove to be an immovable object as he made the stop.
There was still time for Manchester to rub salt into the Capitals’ wounds, scoring an empty net goal eventually credited to Heatley with time running out to sign off an efficient road performance in style with a sixth.
The Capitals led four times on the night but were unable to build on those platforms for long enough, surrendering any momentum they had in the process. But credit must be given to Manchester Storm for the clinical way in which they buried their chances, several of them coming after they latched onto rebounds quicker than Edinburgh could.
For Edinburgh it compounds a miserable weekend in which they lost further ground on both Dundee and Coventry in the race for the final play-off spot, emerging with no points to show for their efforts. The manner of this defeat, however, will probably sting that little bit more.
Capitals man of the match, two-goal forward Taylor MacDougall, expressed disappointment at the weekend insisting it is no longer good enough to talk of good performances if Edinburgh do not back those performances up with points.
“This time of the year is all about results and getting the two points each game, especially in the spot we’re in. We’re certainly in a results based business now and doing the right things and maybe not getting the result isn’t good enough, so we’ve got to regroup. Both games were probably there for us this weekend but at different times we didn’t get it done and we head into a massive weekend for us now.
“Especially given the last couple of efforts, we had gotten away from run and gun a little bit and obviously it reared its head a little there in the second. We just have to be more disciplined with certain decisions and if you have four separate leads you have to find a way to hold those leads, especially at home, especially in the division. There are positives to take but we’ve got to find a way to get it done.
“We’ve seen them enough where we knew what kind of team we were going to get. They [Manchester] play hard and they have got a lot of skill up front, so if you give them chances they are going to make you pay. It was them being opportunistic but they have got the skill up front to do that.
“We’re not used to scoreboard watching so we just worry about ourselves. What will happen away from us will happen away from us, we’re just going to focus on ourselves and the games we are playing right now.”