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Report: Capitals edged out in the shootout after thrilling comeback

Edinburgh Capitals roared back from a 4-0 and 5-1 deficit to force overtime and penalty shots, before finally succumbing to the Sheffield Steelers 6-5 in the shootout. It spoke volumes of the Capitals’ character on a night where we saw the best and worst of Edinburgh, as Michal Dobron’s side emerged from a tough Erhardt Conference double-header with at least one point.

Coming away with anything seemed an unlikely prospect after another period in which they gave up a host of goals in quick succession. It took the Steelers just 63 seconds to find the net following an uncharacteristic Taylor MacDougall giveaway deep in his own zone, off a Jay King pass. Markus Nilsson did well to retrieve it and play in Levi Nelson who fired beyond Travis Fullerton.

Edinburgh were looking for an immediate response and nearly got it when first Karel Hromas picked out the arriving Jacob Johnston on the backhander, before Matt Tipoff and Garrett Milan would combine to good effect. The Steelers would strike again, though, immediately after Tyler Plews and Ian Schultz had teed up Milan with his effort forcing an unconvincing stop from Ervins Mustukovs.

The Capitals’ error prone evening would continue with Jaroslav Hertl miscontrolling a puck and debutant Yared Hagos pounced on the 1-on-1 chance to rifle past Fullerton in the Capitals’ net. It was 2-0 after only 3:46 leaving the hosts with an early mountain to climb.

Hertl’s error led to a defensive switch with the Czech defenceman benched and Schultz going back to help out the Capitals’ rearguard. It was a bold move given the Capitals were already without Rihards Grigors in defence.

It was all Sheffield in the opening exchanges with John Armstrong testing Fullerton’s reflexes and Guillaume Desbiens firing wide after Anders Franzon’s initial shot had been blocked. But the Capitals were nearly architects of their own downfall again when Pavel Vorobyev was harried into conceding the puck with Fullerton made to work to keep out Nilsson’s strike, first with the blocker before swatting away the rebound with his stick.

Edinburgh were all at sea as they tried to keep pace with a rampant Steelers side who were sensing further opportunities to strike. The Capitals were given a huge let off when Jesse Schultz failed to turn in a promising 2-on-1 situation.

However tremendous two-way play by Hromas, who did well to check his man and instigate a break going the other way, enabled Johnston to set up a shooting lane for the impressive Tipoff which was well saved by the alert Mustukovs.

Up the other end, Robert Dowd was unfortunate to not squeeze the puck past Fullerton following some earlier good work as Edinburgh struggled to cope with Sheffield’s strength in numbers. The Steelers would go close to a third when Nelson’s shot was pushed onto the post by Fullerton.

Edinburgh, breathing another sigh of relief, would have one of their best moves of the period with Milan and Schultz doing well to fashion a chance for Mason Wilgosh. The latter was involved soon afterwards, tying his man up at the backboards before feeding Johnston but the Edinburgh captain’s shot took a deflection to fly out of play.

But Sheffield would pounce again on another giveaway by the Capitals. This time Schultz was the culprit conceding possession of the puck to his namesake who found an unmarked Armstrong at the back door for 3-0 with 1:26 to play.

It commenced a crazy final minute or so to end period one which witnessed three goals all told. Three became four when Ben O’Connor’s point slapshot was cleverly redirected in front of a screened Fullerton by Mathieu Roy to cap a tremendous first period for the visitors.

The Capitals would respond just nine seconds after the restart though and it was all Vorobyev’s own making, to make it 4-1 with 37 seconds remaining. He forced a cheap error deep in the Steelers’ zone before rounding Mustukovs and finding the corner on a solo effort. It would prove to be a memorable night for the former Chicago Blackhawks forward.

Buoyed by that Vorobyev lifeline, the Capitals came out of the blocks in period two significantly sharper. Schultz led the Edinburgh break before laying on a pass for Hromas, though Mustukovs reacted well with the glove.

An even better chance came and went for the Capitals shortly afterwards with Wilgosh releasing speedster Milan on a breakaway chance but he was wrapped up on the initial effort before the rebound was gobbled up by the Sheffield netminder.

Terrific work behind the net by Tipoff presented an opening for Schultz who couldn’t capitalise. It was a real heads up play but Edinburgh were unable to cash in.

And the hosts were made to pay on Sheffield’s next offensive series. For once it didn’t stem from a giveaway but Edinburgh will still be disappointed with how it came about. One long pass dissected the Capitals’ rearguard and though Schultz failed to find the net on the initial chance he did well to keep the puck alive, finding Roy at the back post for goal number five with 15:00 to play.

It rather stunted a promising opening to period two and it was Sheffield who looked more threatening. Nelson somehow failed to convert on a chance in front of the net before the impressive Hagos had his shot tipped narrowly wide.

The Capitals failed to convert on one of the few power play chances for either side on the night, unable to take full advantage of a tripping call against Desbiens. Edinburgh worked it well with Vorobyev and Johnston showing patience to tee up a trademark Dobron slapshot that Mustukovs did well to save.

Sheffield returned to full strength unscathed but they required a huge slice of fortune to keep the score at 5-1. Schultz’s rocket of a slapshot from the blue line cannoned into the iron before Yevgeni Fyodorov found the side netting after a Vorobyev poke check had forced a turnover.

Undeterred by their misfortune, the Capitals did net a second. Michael D’Orazio, clearly full of confidence after opening his account against the Cardiff Devils, unleashed a stinging slapshot that MacDougall tipped onto the post. Fortunately, however, Milan was perfectly placed to ram home the rebound from close range with 10:06 to play.

Some neat stick work by Vorobyev created an opening for Hromas on the Capitals’ next offensive series but he fired over when well placed. But a rebound opportunity off the backboards nearly presented a chance for the Steelers to re-establish their four goal lead, with Christoffer Bjorklund not far away.

Armstrong then forced Fullerton into action with the glove and, off the ensuing face off, O’Connor would test the Capitals’ netminder with the pad.

Vorobyev was again at the heart of Edinburgh’s attacking play, finding Tipoff at the point with a shot that Mustikovs gloved well. However the home side were given another scare with 2:11 to play when a chance presented itself in front after Sheffield had pulled the Edinburgh rearguard out of position, though the Capitals would survive.

Franzon’s neat square pass on the Steelers’ next move deserved greater reward but no one gambled by skating to the front of the net as the chance came and went, ending an even period two with the visitors leading 5-2.

It gave no indication as to the astonishing comeback that the Capitals would produce in period three, but why should we be surprised given what has already happened this season? Edinburgh took full advantage of some strong offensive play and some tired Sheffield defending to haul themselves back into the contest.

It was a comeback that might not have been given the opportunity to develop had D’Orazio not been alert to cut out a Dowd break. Crucially, Edinburgh would register a third goal of the night soon afterwards.

The architect of the move was Hromas as he picked out the arriving Vorobyev and his shot found a way through Mustukovs with 18:01 to play in the period. It was a big goal that gave the Capitals hope of an unlikely comeback.

That comeback rested on a successful Edinburgh penalty kill following a cross-checking call against Schultz and they duly did survive to return to full strength. Bjorklund’s tricky shot that was tipped over Fullerton’s cage was as close as Sheffield came to registering on the power play.

Shortly after returning from the box, Schultz nearly gifted Sheffield another goal off a takeaway when Hagos found Luke Ferrara, though Fullerton was alive to the danger to make the save.

Up the other end, the Capitals missed a glorious chance with the net gaping as they sought to reduce the deficit further. How it stayed out is anyone’s guess with Tipoff playing in the marauding Johnston and, when his effort on net was blocked, it looked destined to be turned home on the rebound but Sheffield somehow scrambled the puck clear.

As it happens, Edinburgh didn’t have to wait long for goal number four with Vorobyev capping an impressive night with a first Capitals hat-trick of the season. By now the comeback was very much on.

Tipoff had played Vorobyev in and it was never in doubt as he finished beautifully on the back-hander to make it 5-4 with 13:33 to play, their third unanswered goal.

The Capitals now had the bit between their teeth and it seemed only a matter of time before they grabbed that all important leveller. A shot on net from Johnston caused problems before eventually being cleared, before Mustukovs was forced to bat down a threatening effort that had the Steelers defence in all sorts of trouble.

But it wasn’t all one way traffic. Dowd forced a quick save from Fullerton and then, on their next series, the Steelers had a terrific chance to kill the contest on a 2-on-1 with Johnston miraculously throwing himself in front of the puck.

By now it was edge of your seat stuff with Edinburgh desperately trying to find an equaliser. They were left cursing their luck when Fyodorov’s stick broke at the most inopportune moment as he prepared to fire on net, while D’Orazio’s effort that crept wide couldn’t quite be turned home by Tipoff.

It was firmly end to end, though Edinburgh continued to pepper the Sheffield goal with Dobron next to go close on a slapshot following good work by MacDougall and Tipoff to find a shooting lane.

Edinburgh were nearly punished for another slack bit of play with Johnston failing to make proper connection on an attempted pass, gifting Ferrara a chance, though Fullerton made himself big to clear it to safety.

After Vorobyev had forced Mustukovs into work, Sheffield were denied by a superb Fullerton save to keep Edinburgh’s faint hopes of salvaging something alive. Franzon and Desbiens combined to find Armstrong who was denied by the big frame of Fullerton.

Moments later and, after Schultz had fired the puck on net, Fullerton again bailed out the Capitals with a huge stop from Dowd to keep them in the contest.

It proved to be a huge save as with time running out, Tipoff found the net on a rebound with five seconds remaining to knot it up at 5-5 and send the game into overtime. It was a crazy ending to a period in which the Capitals came out fighting with three goals, four unanswered, to claim a minimum of one point.

Edinburgh had pulled Fullerton in favour of an extra skater and it paid dividends with Johnston’s shot saved, only for Tipoff to react quickest to cap a dramatic comeback from 5-1 down.

Both sides traded chances in the overtime period with Tipoff having both of Edinburgh’s best chances, the second after Colton Fretter and Schultz had forced Fullerton into saves. Neither side were able to grab the winner so it was left to penalty shots to decide the victor.

Edinburgh had beaten Manchester on penalty shots in September but there was to be no repeat tonight. Sheffield showed the steel of champions to keep their nerve when it mattered most.

Schultz got things rolling when he fired home and Armstrong followed suit following a Tipoff miss. D’Orazio had to score to keep the Capitals in the contest but he failed to do so, securing a 6-5 win for the Steelers as a result.

Edinburgh can look back and be satisfied to have claimed what had seemed an unlikely point when they trailed 4-0 and 5-1. The Capitals were left to rue both a slow start and another game in which they gave up multiple goals in quick succession.

Vorobyev’s hat-trick had been the catalyst for a sensational third period comeback, but the Steelers did enough to hold off the Capitals in the shootout to claim the two points. Edinburgh emerge from a tough home double-header with one point following their 4-1 reverse to the Cardiff Devils on Friday.

And though they’ve now lost seven of their last 10, the manner of their comeback should provide plenty of confidence that if they can stamp out the errors that handed Sheffield a quick 3-0 lead, they can match any team on any given night.

Hat-trick hero Pavel Vorobyev shared many of those sentiments post-match, insisting Edinburgh should be pleased to have emerged with a point, but feels they need to sharpen up in their own zone moving forward.

“I think we’re a little disappointed. We had the chance to take two points but we should be happy about the one point because the first period was a bad game from us, it was 4-1, and we made a great comeback in the third period. I think the one point is good for us, for our confidence, and we need to go forward.

“I am happy about my hat-trick and I am happy with how I helped our team get the one point. When I go on the ice I try to do my best, every shift working hard, so I am so happy now. I am going to enjoy it a little bit, for a couple of days, then start work again as we have some big games next weekend so we need to be prepared for that.

“I think there is good character. We talked to each other between the periods and we tried to change our mind, change our game and I think we played a good two periods, working hard. We played sharp and we had a lot of confidence, in the third period especially. We can play very good games but sometimes individual mistakes, especially like tonight in the first period, we gave up some goals. Because we played against good teams, especially Cardiff and the Steelers, they have skill players who can score some goals and that is what happened tonight and last night too. It’s our problem. We need to be better defensively and we’ll be ok.

“It is a good lesson for us. There are difficult games against every team in our league, it is hard for us no matter who we play against – Cardiff, Sheffield or Fife, for example. Every game we need to be sharp, be confident, working hard every game and every shift. I know we need to be better defensively, especially in our zone because we made some big mistakes and it is very easy for teams to play against.”

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