There aren’t many better ways to snap a five-game losing streak than by trouncing your opponent in your own back yard. It is exactly what the Edinburgh Capitals managed, disposing of Coventry Blaze in stunning fashion to record a comprehensive 8-2 win at Murrayfield Ice Rink in perhaps their most complete performance of the season so far.
It lifted the Capitals off the bottom of the Elite League standings, a result that heaps more pressure on embattled Blaze coach Danny Stewart. Edinburgh won’t mind though as they turned on the style in front of a delighted home support to leapfrog Coventry who now occupy 10th place.
They were given a pre-match boost with the return of player/coach Michal Dobron to the line-up, while Ian Schultz shook off the injury scare that forced him to leave last weekend’s defeat to Belfast. Coventry, meanwhile, included new signings T.J. Syner and Barry Almeida who arrived this week as replacements for the released Bjorn Bombis and Taylor Carnevale.
The tone was set for an extraordinary and, at times, breathless encounter with Coventry on the power play within two minutes following a call against Jacob Johnston. Blaze forward Ben Davies had positioned himself in front and was adjudged to have been hooked by the officials.
Edinburgh killed off the penalty but did so after surviving a Josh Godfrey slapshot that flashed wide. Up the other end, Pavel Vorobyev had Edinburgh’s first chance as he forced Brian Stewart into work with the pad following a sharp effort that went through the legs of Blaze defenceman Shawn Boutin.
It was the visitors who were next to go close with Syner forcing Travis Fullerton into action for the first time on the night, as he got down well to block the shot with his pad. A routine stop it may have been, but it proved important given Edinburgh would open the scoring soon afterwards.
It came off the back of Coventry’s own offensive series following an icing call, as the impressive Taylor MacDougall picked up the puck at centre ice and skated deep into Blaze territory. The chance appeared to have gone but the Canadian had other ideas as he forced Stewart to commit, before burying the chance to hand Edinburgh the 1-0 lead just over six minutes into the contest.
The Blaze would successfully kill a penalty against Robin Bergman and it was the Swede himself who latched onto a pass and fired over having just stepped out of the penalty box. It was a decent opening for the visitors, albeit from a tight angle, and they would rue that miss within minutes.
It has been quite the week for Capitals defenceman Tyler Plews following his call up to the GB U20 squad for next month’s World Championships in Budapest, and he celebrated in perfect fashion by netting his first goal of the season.
Plews’ strike came after Mason Wilgosh’s initial effort had been parried by Stewart but, to their credit, the Capitals kept the puck alive and it was Plews who took full advantage firing an effort that may have taken a deflection. It seemed to trickle through the Blaze netminder, though no one seemed to mind and, critically, it opened up something of a cushion for the hosts with just over 10 minutes remaining in period one.
Chances would come and go for the hosts with Johnston forcing a save after Schultz had failed to properly connect on an effort, before Vorobyev teed up Wilgosh who fired narrowly wide. They weren’t done there as Jared Staal fashioned an opening and wasn’t far away on the backhander.
It wasn’t all one traffic as Coventry tried to cash in on the power play. A Godfrey blue line drive was gloved by the alert Fullerton. Moments later, a perfect Marc Cantin pass for the arriving Almeida wasn’t far away from getting meaningful contact as he skated to the front of the net.
But it was Edinburgh who were left cursing their luck soon afterwards when they were inches away from a third goal. By this stage the Capitals were rampant as Coventry struggled to kick into any sort of rhythm. A neat Staal cut-back found Johnston and his shot appeared to strike both posts, but the officials ruled that the puck hadn’t crossed the line on this occasion.
Coventry seemed to be momentarily buoyed by that stroke of fortune and a terrific square pass by Matt Marquardt nearly connected with Davies arriving at the back post.
Both sides had traded chances before Plews went close to his second and Edinburgh’s third on their next offensive series, firing a shot which Stewart could only unconvincingly turn aside. The rebound was cleared and inadvertently set the Blaze up on the breakaway, with Almeida bearing down on Fullerton. However the Capitals’ netminder stood tall to divert it away.
With Coventry sensing an opportunity to strike, Brett Robinson flashed an effort wide off the back boards and with Fullerton trying to locate the puck, Schultz had to be alert to poke check Liam Stewart who looked destined to tuck in at the back door.
The Blaze would begin period two with a spring in their step, their best period of the match, and they would strike early to half the deficit. The catalyst was a series of power play chances and it appeared inevitable that they would make the pressure count.
They would go close to scoring on the first of their power play chances in the period, striking the post after Fullerton had done enough to turn aside the initial effort. Robinson had his shot strike the skate of Schultz and skip wide, before Jim Jorgensen tried his luck in front.
Davies would test Fullerton’s reflexes on a backhander and the latter had to be alive to the danger after Godfrey’s shot through traffic had significant zip on it.
Just when the chance appeared to have gone for the Blaze, they were handed another opportunity on the power play and they punished the Capitals on the man advantage. Godfrey fired a slapshot through traffic and although Fullerton saved the initial effort, he was powerless to prevent captain Jordan Pietrus from sweeping home in front.
It had Coventry on the board with 11:35 to play but rather than provide a platform for a comeback, it only succeeded in re-focusing Edinburgh who would re-establish their two goal advantage within minutes.
Edinburgh’s power play unit has come to life in recent games and it clicked into gear again following a call against Jorgensen. A poor line change gave Dobron the freedom of Murrayfield Ice Rink and while his initial effort was well blocked, it fell invitingly for MacDougall who rifled his effort past a partially screened Stewart for 3-1.
Coventry looked for an immediate response with Syner firing on net from the point following a well disguised screen, but Edinburgh could have added a fourth on their next real opportunity.
A strong Jay King poke check set the wheels in motion as Matt Tipoff fed Schultz, but Stewart was well behind it on this occasion.
Fullerton was alive to scramble away the puck after Ashley Tait had thrown it on net, but the Capitals would foreshadow later events as they searched for a short-handed goal on the Blaze’s next power play chance.
The catalyst for the move was strong work by Staal to strip Coventry of the puck and, after exchanging passes with Schultz, he wasn’t far away from finding the net.
As it happens they didn’t have to wait long for that fourth goal, which in hindsight, seemed to kill off any hopes Coventry had of mustering anything from their three-game weekend.
It had some fortune about it as the puck ricocheted into the path of Tipoff who made no mistake on the one on one chance. He skated through keeping his composure and made Stewart guess before tucking away top shelf with 4:18 to play – the Capitals’ first short-handed goal of the season.
Coventry ought to have reduced the arrears with a short-handed strike of their own, with Stewart somehow unable to turn home at the back post and it would prove to be a costly missed chance.
With 1:08 to go, and now on the power play themselves, Edinburgh rammed home their superiority with a fifth of the night. It was neatly worked as Yevgeni Fyodorov fired a point shot short side, creeping home to extend the Capitals’ lead to four.
Five nearly became six on a 4-on-4 chance as Garrett Milan skated through with support from Tipoff, though Edinburgh’s pocket-rocket opted to go solo on this occasion forcing Stewart into a smart stop.
Coventry began the third period on the front foot as they sought to reduce the arrears and Marquardt was denied only by good stick work by Jaroslav Hertl, following tight defensive coverage by the Capitals.
But that man Marquardt ought to have done better with a golden chance in front. It all stemmed from a feed by Bergman and it rather summed up Coventry’s limp showing as he could only fire wide.
Vorobyev nearly scored on a silky solo effort as he evaded the attentions of a couple of Blaze players and they had Stewart to thank as he narrowed the angle to make the stop. Edinburgh would continue to pepper the Blaze net with Michael D’Orazio next to go close following strong play by Wilgosh as Stewart extended his pad to clear.
Goal number six would soon arrive, however. Again there was some fortune about it, but take nothing away from the clinical finish which underlined Edinburgh’s dominance on the night.
A clearance by Dobron found its way to an unmarked Staal, at the bench, who skated into the Blaze zone and showed his coolness to slam past a helpless Stewart to make it 6-1 with 15:37 to play.
Coventry continued to create and squander chances of their own though. Russell Cowley was strong on the forecheck to force a turnover and his pass for Godfrey created an opening, though Fullerton held well.
Moments later a neat no look pass by Robinson had Bergman in with an opening out in front but Fullerton continued his impressive night to make the save. His teammate Almeida was unlucky not to turn home from the slot on their next possession, with Schultz called for the penalty as the Blaze threatened a second.
The visitors continued to create and squander good openings and both sides began to trade chances. Boutin flashed a deflected effort narrowly wide and, before long, Coventry would be punished by a more ruthless Edinburgh outfit.
It capped a memorable night for man of the match MacDougall who positioned himself perfectly to redirect a D’Orazio effort on net for his first hat-trick in Edinburgh colours, extending the score to 7-1 in the process.
Virtually from the restart, Fullerton snared a Pietrus effort with the glove as Coventry’s frustrations began to show. Their disappointing weekend was summed up by the unfortunate Cowley’s effort careering into the post as Blaze sought a consolation.
They would grab a second before this game was out though as Almeida rounded off his first week as a member of the Blaze with his first goal in UK ice hockey. David Clements’ drive on net was partially cleared as far as Pietrus and Almeida was on hand to squeeze the puck home for 7-2 with 3:44 to go.
But Edinburgh weren’t done there to compound a tough night for Coventry. Hertl’s shot on the power play eventually found its way to Staal who made no mistake to tuck home his second and the Capitals’ eighth of a quite extraordinary night.
There was still time for both teams to go close as Boutin forced Fullerton into work, before a Vorobyev strike was saved and swatted away by Stewart in the Blaze net.
The Capitals crushed Coventry to notch up a first win in six and arrest any lingering memories of four consecutive home losses coming into this one. They did it in superb fashion, notching three power play goals and a first short-handed goal of the season, while MacDougall became the second Edinburgh player to register a hat-trick this campaign.
It is fair to say the clouds are certainly hanging over Coventry right now but that shouldn’t detract from perhaps the Capitals’ best showing, home or away, this season.
There are rarely more opportune moments to get back to winning ways, as Edinburgh embark on a historic two-legged Challenge Cup quarter-final against Sheffield Steelers, beginning on Wednesday night with the home leg.
Hat-trick hero Taylor MacDougall was delighted with the manner of the victory, playing down his own achievements and focusing more on the nature of the team performance as the Capitals get ready for a three-game week.
“We were pretty solid for the entire 60 minutes. We knew it was a big night with a big week coming up and there were a lot of habits we were looking to establish tonight and I think we were successful in doing so – it was a great effort.
“It was a little bit of the opposite,” said MacDougall when asked if the Capitals felt as if they could take advantage of Coventry’s three-game weekend and possible tiredness. “That’s a dangerous team over there and no one wants to leave a road trip without any points, so we knew it was going to be a desperate team as well. Having a big start was key because the travel is going to kick in eventually, so to have our start and establish some possession was big I think in moving forward through 60 minutes.”
“It’s nice to be rewarded,” said MacDougall when referencing the well-rounded Capitals performance including his hat-trick. “There are going to be nights when things go right and it’s just about trying to be consistent in your effort to try and have those nights as much as you can. Certainly when the puck follows us as a team a little bit, it’s definitely nice.”
“It was kind of about establishing a positive effort [heading into Wednesday night’s Challenge Cup quarter-final first leg]. We’re playing a top tier opponent on Wednesday and we have to have a big practice this week and be ready to bring a similar, or even better effort and see where that takes us.”