Elite League leaders Cardiff Devils consigned the Edinburgh Capitals to their second straight 4-1 loss on home ice in the first of an Erhardt Conference home double-header. It was no more than the Devils deserved, stretching their winning sequence to seven with a clinical display of finishing that owed much to a blistering second period.
The Capitals had to make do without Jared Staal but they did welcome back Matt Tipoff who missed both of last weekend’s games through illness. They also included Sean Beattie who made his GB bow at Ice Arena Wales in a 4-2 mid-week defeat to Norway.
Both sides exchanged early chances in this one with Tipoff firing wide after good work by captain Jacob Johnston, while Travis Fullerton was called in to action with a pad save from Matthew Myers. The Welshman had robbed the puck off Ian Schultz before finding a shooting lane.
It has been well documented that Edinburgh’s stuttering power play hasn’t clicked in recent games, so an early man advantage provided the perfect opportunity to lay previous shortcomings to rest. Patrick Asselin was called for a delay of game penalty but the Capitals could only muster one Michael D’Orazio shot which Ben Bowns met with the pad with Jaroslav Hertl also throwing the puck on net in search of the opener.
Asselin was straight out of the box and into the action following the Devils’ successful penalty kill and, on the next offensive series, they would go close to opening the scoring. Captain Jake Morrisette threw the puck on net forcing a reaction stop from Fullerton and Joey Martin, who cleverly had positioned himself at the back door, was denied by some strong Edinburgh defending.
Up the other end, the Capitals fashioned a chance purely of Ian Schultz’s own making as he skated deep into the Devils’ zone, showed neat stick work, and then fired an effort at Bowns who flashed the leather to make a smart stop.
But the Capitals were given a huge let off moments later when Asselin did well to show patience behind the net, twisting and turning under duress, before commencing a move that ought to have had the Devils in front. The puck eventually found its way across the goalmouth to Layne Ulmer who should have buried his chance.
Cardiff were left cursing their luck again when, in the next passage of play, they struck the post twice in quick succession before testing Fullerton’s reflexes with a stinging blue line drive. Moments later and with the Devils sensing a shift in momentum, Gleason Fournier fashioned a chance for himself but Fullerton reacted smartly to keep the score at zero.
An interference call against D’Orazio with 4:21 to play had the Devils on the power play for the first time in the game and the Capitals had Fullerton to thank again. Neat play behind the net by Martin saw him find Morrisette in front, though the Edinburgh netminder reacted superbly to save.
Although the Capitals successfully killed off the penalty to return to full strength, they were dealt a huge blow with period one winding to a close. With Joey Haddad racing clear, player/coach Michal Dobron was called for tripping with one second remaining, handing Cardiff 1:59 on another power play opportunity to begin period two.
And they duly cashed in to break the deadlock. After the sizeable Cardiff away following thought they had scored when they rattled the iron again, they weren’t to be denied for long with Mark Richardson latching on to a Morrisette pass. The Devils went post-to-post and though Fullerton got some of his right pad on the shot, it crept over the line for the power play goal.
The Capitals survived a threatening 2-on-1 situation with Myers and ex Colorado Avalanche winger Patrick Bordeleau unable to ram home the advantage. Though as it happens goal number two would soon arrive.
Cardiff did well to keep the puck deep in the Edinburgh zone and Haddad was somehow allowed to escape unmarked in front of the net, keeping his composure to round Fullerton for the Devils’ second of the night.
The extraordinary blitz to open the second period continued with another bang-bang play as Cardiff rammed home their superiority a mere 36 seconds later. The Capitals were caught on a breakaway and it is unclear if Guillaume Doucet merely took his shot early to catch Fullerton off-guard but regardless, it worked, squirming through Fullerton for 3-0. It is one that he’ll want back.
By now Cardiff’s relentless tempo was spawning chance after chance. An aggressive forecheck and quick movement of the puck set the tone as Edinburgh struggled to keep pace with the Devils’ additional line.
Devils player/coach Andrew Lord nearly added number four following a tip in front of Fullerton but he was unable to prod the puck home as Edinburgh survived unscathed, though it is no exaggeration to say that Cardiff looked like they were going to score every time they broke with pace and numbers.
Haddad’s saucer pass for the arriving David Brine nearly added another as he attempted to redirect it with his stick. Fullerton pulled off a strong reaction save soon after to deny Sean Bentivoglio from the slot as a rampant Devils were not content to rest on their laurels.
Edinburgh’s frustrations grew when Tipoff cleverly worked the puck to the front of the net that was crying out for a teammate to connect with it, but there was no one in a Capitals shirt ready to race to the net.
Karel Hromas would test Bowns’ reactions with a snapshot with both teams beginning to trade chances. It seemed that the Capitals had weathered the worst of the storm although Andrew Hotham provided a reminder of that threat with an effort that Fullerton diverted away with his skate.
And the Devils would strike the post again on their next offensive series. Quick puck movement had characterised the visitors’ performance, tiring out the Capitals’ rearguard, moving them out of position and preventing their ability to make line changes. Following patient build up, Fournier’s tricky backhander crashed against the post as the Devils failed to capitalise on their momentum.
The Capitals were back on the power play with just over five minutes remaining in period two with Myers called for interference as the hosts looked to reignite their ailing special teams play.
Johnston had Edinburgh on the front foot and his ambitious break summed up the Capitals’ night to that point. He did everything right, alluding the presence of a couple of Cardiff defenders before trying to tee up a shooting chance for himself, but he was wrapped up and the puck ricocheted off his skate to safety before he could fire an effort on goal.
Edinburgh man of the match Schultz would see a promising opening come and go when his effort was deflected wide, but the Capitals did not get enough shots on net during the power play to really test Bowns in the Cardiff net.
With the power play chance expiring, Pavel Vorobyev was picked out by a neat Dobron pass though his effort would again find the glove of Bowns who continued to frustrate Edinburgh when they were able to create chances of note.
The stop-start nature of the game was epitomised by another penalty with Mason Wilgosh called for hooking with 2:27 to go. This time, however, Cardiff couldn’t cash in but that owed a lot to an outstanding reaction save from Fullerton who saved with his shoulder off a redirected effort.
Moments later, Fullerton produced perhaps the save of the match. Cardiff looked destined to force home their advantage with Ulmer finding Doucet in the slot, though Fullerton flashed the glove magnificently to keep the score at three.
With Edinburgh seemingly energised by that penalty kill, Schultz’s superb cross-ice pass found Tipoff in stride although Bowns was alive to make the save to end period two. It left the Capitals with plenty to ponder and plenty of work to do if they hoped to begin their weekend with some points to show for it.
As it happens, however, period three was a much improved display for the Capitals as they reacted from a poor period two to finally pin the Devils deep in their own zone with their best spell of consistent pressure in the game.
Vorobyev would go close to registering the Capitals on the scoreboard but Bowns reacted well to make the save, before Lord sent Fullerton to work with the pads. The end to end nature of the period would continue with Wilgosh next to go close on the turn, though the hosts continued to be frustrated by a disciplined Devils defence.
Schultz and Tipoff combined well on the next offensive series, keeping the puck in the offensive zone and creating an opening for D’Orazio who saw his strong slapshot well saved again by Bowns in the Devils net.
Yevgeni Fyodorov would be next to try his luck as the Capitals tried to up the tempo, though the Cardiff netminder was able to steer the puck away with the pad.
A Johnston blue line shot was then gloved as the Capitals searched for a route back into the contest, though they breathed a huge sigh of relief when Bentivoglio was unable to convert a one-on-one chance up the other end that would have ended the contest. Fullerton again was there to make a terrific pad stop.
Schultz’s strong night continued when he skated deep into the Devils’ zone, showed strong stick play again and fed Garrett Milan who fired at Bowns on the turn. It was a huge opportunity for the Capitals that came and went.
However the Capitals would register that elusive power play goal on their third opportunity of the night, a huge positive given it has been an area of concern in recent games. A cross-checking call against Mark Louis gave Edinburgh the lifeline they needed.
Just 45 seconds into the man advantage was all they needed to open their account for the evening. D’Orazio fired home from the blue line following good build-up play by Milan, flashing his effort past a screened Bowns who had his visibility impaired by Schultz in front of the net.
Crucially it had the Capitals on the board with 13:03 to play, though it remained an uphill battle to retrieve something from this one.
A Devils break nearly iced the game with a square pass saved by the impressive Fullerton before Tipoff would go close following good work by Johnston and Fyodorov, though Bowns adjusted himself well to deflect over with his shoulder.
Bowns was at his agile best soon afterwards as Dobron’s strong shot on net was cleverly redirected by Fyodorov though the Cardiff netminder reacted quickest to turn it away.
Moments later and Haddad’s effort on net hit the skate of him own man, Ulmer, as Cardiff searched for the fourth goal that would put the seal on the win. Two quick chances would come and go as first Fullerton made a save in front and then an effort off the rebound flashed wide as the Capitals survived unscathed.
Though it proved to be a brief respite. After Vorobyev showed good strength to keep the puck in deep, Johnston and Fyodorov would go close in quick succession but it was Cardiff who would have the final say.
Putting the gloss on a hugely efficient road win was Martin who reacted first before rounding Fullerton with 2:51 to play. The goal came from good work behind the net, though Schultz was incensed at the officials’ decision not to call a penalty for interference.
It summed up another frustrating night on home ice for the Capitals. While Wilgosh and Johnston would have the last chances of note, it was the Devils who would who emerge from this one with a deserved 4-1 victory to claim the two points.
For the Capitals it was their second straight home loss following Sunday’s 4-1 reverse against Manchester Storm and they won’t have time to mull over it for long, as they return to home ice against the Sheffield Steelers tonight.
It will be their first look at the Steelers, but of more concern will be the sloppy opening to period two which laid the foundations for the Devils’ win. There is no doubt, however, that Cardiff deserved to emerge victorious.
The Capitals have it in them to play much better and they will need to be at their best if they wish to get one over another of the Erhardt Conference heavyweights, Sheffield, tonight.
Defenceman Michael D’Orazio shared his frustration at the disappointing middle period which set the tone as Cardiff capitalised with three quick goals en-route to a 4-1 win. Consistency is key according to D’Orazio, who opened his Capitals’ account against the Devils.
“They’re a good team. It’s kind of early in the season to tell [if the Devils are the team to beat], but they’re definitely one of the top teams. They’ve got four lines and they take it to you every shift. We did some things wrong tonight, we did some things right so we’ve just got to learn from the things we did wrong, and go into tomorrow with good attitudes.
“It was a bad second period for us. We got away from our game, I know we talked systems in the room between the first and second but we didn’t follow our directions. We got behind there with three quick goals and we were behind the eight ball. It’s kind of the story this year with us, we let spurts of goals in so we’ve got to tighten up defensively that’s for sure and help Fully [Travis Fullerton] see the puck. When he sees the puck he stops it, we’ve just got to let him see the puck as there is too much traffic in front of the net.
“It was a good period,” said D’Orazio reflecting on a better period three for the Capitals. “But at the same time they were up three nothing so I think they sat back, so it kind of goes both ways. We did play a decent period, it was definitely better than the second period, so that’s a positive but hopefully tomorrow’s a new day and a new result.
“Personally it was great to get that monkey off my back. I know I’ve had a lot of shots on net that haven’t really been going my way, but the big thing for us is traffic in front of the net. Ian Schultz stood in front of the net and the goalie was trying to look around him and I just hit the net. Most of the work is done by the guy with the screen. You can shoot 100 pucks at a goalie in this league without the screen and he’s going to probably stop 98 of them. It’s the screen that does everything and [with] our power play I think we need to get more guys in front of the net, get some greasy goals, screen their goalies and make it hard on them.
“I think it is consistency,” said D’Orazio when asked what the biggest lesson is from the Devils loss. “We’ve shown in spurts this year that we can play with any team, and we can beat any team. It’s just really good teams play really good every night and we’ve just got to find a way of getting some consistency in our game, find that and build on each game and hopefully it starts tomorrow.”