Edinburgh Capitals were consigned to their first league defeat of the season, and their first home defeat in four matches, as Braehead Clan notched up a deserved 5-2 win at Murrayfield Ice Rink.
The Capitals were looking to build on the momentum from their come-from-behind win against the Fife Flyers last weekend, while the Clan were looking to round-off a three game weekend with at least some points to show for it, following defeats against the Sheffield Steelers and the Belfast Giants.
Edinburgh had won the two previous meetings with the Clan earlier in the season, but it was the visitors who came out of the traps with plenty of energy as they settled the quicker of the two sides. Captain Matt Keith combined well with Scott Aarssen who fired wide, before Daniel Ahsberg picked out Keith who saw his effort blocked away by Travis Fullerton.
Sean Beattie had the Capitals’ first effort of note when he forced the impressive Michal Zajkowski into work with Jared Staal unable to turn home the rebound. The quick tempo was producing chances at both ends with Craig Peacock denied by a superb double save from Fullerton, after good build-up play by new Clan signing Mike Hammond.
Edinburgh would let the Clan off the hook, however, following a double-minor penalty against Keith for high-sticking, with the Capitals unable to take advantage of a near-two minute 5-on-3 situation. Defenceman Michael D’Orazio’s effort from the blue-line was blocked, as was Ian Schultz’s shot following good work by livewire Garrett Milan.
That huge penalty kill seemed to give Braehead a lift and the physical nature of the play didn’t subside with a spate of penalties for both sides. Scott Pitt and Schultz were both sent to the box for roughing which laid the foundations for a frenetic few minutes with Capitals man of the match Pavel Vorobyev forcing Zajkowski into a pad stop and, up the other end, Zach Sullivan tested Fullerton’s reactions with a routine glove stop.
The Capitals were given a huge let off of their own moments later when Yevgeni Fyodorov carelessly turned over the puck deep in his own zone and it looked certain that the Clan would capitalise, only for Peacock to see his effort miraculously saved by a sprawling Fullerton in the Capitals’ net.
But the Clan would make amends for that miss with 5:35 to play. After Bari McKenzie couldn’t quite divert home from a perfect square pass in the slot, the puck ricocheted off former Edinburgh forward Callum Boyd into the path of Matt Haywood who gobbled up the chance to fire beyond a helpless Fullerton.
Edinburgh had a chance to level immediately when Beattie’s clever cutback found Taylor MacDougall but the forward could only steer his effort wide. It was to prove a crucial miss when, moments later, Pitt found a shooting lane and his powerful drive was only parried by Fullerton into the path of Matt Beca who stabbed home to double Braehead’s lead.
A difficult task was to become even more challenging just over a minute later when a rampant Clan scored for a third time with 1:30 remaining in period one. Braehead man of the match Corey Cowick’s effort found its way to the feet of Jay Rosehill and the former Philadelphia Flyers winger made no mistake to slam home goal number three.
A crazy ending to the opening period had seen Braehead put themselves firmly in control, though Edinburgh would have been lifted by a penalty called against goalscorer Haywood to leave the Capitals with 1:18 left on the power play to begin the second period.
Jacob Johnston would force Zajkowski into a save early in the second after good work by Fyodorov and Vorobyev, before D’Orazio would fire two slapshots on the Clan net to no avail as the visitors successfully killed the penalty off.
Edinburgh were nearly architects of their own downfall when Johnston surrendered the puck and Ahsberg forced Fullerton into a smart stop. Alex Leavitt would fire an effort wide before Schultz would see his effort deflect wide after a Braehead turnover.
Yet the Clan were sensing another opportunity to strike and weren’t far away from a fourth goal of the night. The impressive Rosehill’s square pass was crying out for Hammond to poke home, but the forward failed to take his chance.
However, as it happens, goal number four wasn’t long in the making. Following a Vorobyev effort that flashed wide, Sullivan slammed his effort in from in front of the net, following good work by Ahsberg and Keith, to give Braehead an added cushion with 10:50 remaining.
It looked an unassailable lead and, by now, Braehead looked threatening every time they broke forward with numbers. Beca would fire wide on a quick Clan break following Michal Dobron’s slapshot, before Staal would see his effort blockered away by Zajkowski.
Braehead would be gifted another power play opportunity following a tripping call against Tyler Plews, that was upgraded to a double-minor following a delay-of-game infraction against Fullerton in the Capitals goal to set up a 5-on-3 situation.
Frustrations were clearly boiling over and things were about to get worse when Cowick pounced on the power play, assisted by Peacock and Cody Carlson after the latter’s shot had initially been blocked. This was clinical finishing at its best.
With Edinburgh hunting for a route back into the game, Zajkowski looked unbeatable as he did well to deflect two quick efforts, first from Johnston and then from Vorobyev. Following a slashing call against Rosehill, a power play opportunity presented a golden chance for the Capitals to kick start their fight back.
But Braehead would continue their strong performance on the penalty kill, limiting Edinburgh to one Jaroslav Hertl effort. Matt Tipoff and Johnston would combine well moments later but by this stage nothing was going the Capitals’ way as period two wound to a close.
You would have been forgiven for thinking this was over as a contest with period three to come, but this Capitals team aren’t one to lie down as they produced a spirited third period performance. Rather than seeking damage limitation, Edinburgh were on the front foot immediately in search of a response.
The Clan, however, would go close to number six on the power play, with D’Orazio alert to clear a loose puck in the Capitals crease following a stinging shot from Cowick. Before long, Carlson was trying his luck and he wasn’t far away from finding the net with an effort from the blue-line.
Yet energised by a successful penalty kill, the Capitals finally opened their account for the night with Milan alert to tip home Johnston’s drive to reduce the score to 5-1 with 15:35 to play. It was the least Edinburgh deserved for their persistence as they finally got the better of the stubborn Zajkowski to raise hopes of an unlikely comeback.
It set the scene for a dominant Edinburgh third-period performance with Johnston’s effort, from a similar position to the Milan goal, tipped just wide by Mason Wilgosh in the slot. Soon after, neat stick play by Hertl opened up a shooting lane with the puck smothered by Zajkowski to stop the clock.
And the Capitals were left cursing their luck when MacDougall and Wilgosh combined beautifully, only for the latter’s effort to smack against the iron with Zajkowski well beaten. It rather summed up a frustrating night for the hosts.
After unsuccessful efforts by Hertl and Johnston, Braehead thought that had goal number six when Beca swept home, only for the officials to waive the goal off and bring it back for a face-off with 5:49 to play.
The competitive nature of the game was epitomised by Staal and Wilgosh who got down well to block a rasping Aarssen drive, before the penultimate power play opportunity of the game provided the perfect platform for the Capitals to reduce the arrears further.
And that they did. After Rihards Grigors forced a glove stop from Zajkowski, Dobron’s powerful shot from the blue-line was tipped home from in front of the net for the power play goal with 2:24 to play. Staal claimed the final touch for his sixth goal of the season to make it 5-2 as Edinburgh finished the game and the period strongly.
One final power play opportunity would come the way of Edinburgh following a holding call against Kyle Wharton, but despite efforts from Johnston and Dobron, the Clan would see out the rest of the game unscathed to secure a well-deserved victory.
The Capitals would be left to rue another slow start to a game that saw them firmly behind the eight ball heading into period three. Unlike in recent weeks, Edinburgh left themselves with too much work to do from a 5-0 deficit, but they can at least take heart from a battling third period in which they found the net twice.
Captain Jacob Johnston was unsurprisingly left frustrated by another poor start that laid the foundations for Braehead’s win but the defenceman says that the one positive to come out of the game was the fighting performance in the final period.
“Like we’ve said before, we have a tendency of not coming out very strong and going into the third period with a deficit and it was the same case tonight,” said Johnston. “We’re not going to be able to come back from a 3, 4, 5 goal deficit in the third period and that was exactly the case tonight.
“It is frustrating but it just comes down to preparing ourselves better and we’ve got to do whatever it takes to play a full 60 minutes. We’ve got to come out strong and not put us in that position because we’re not going to be able to turn it on in the third period and be able to come back against these teams throughout the year.
“I was a little surprised [with Braehead’s quick tempo]. They’ve had a 3-in-3 this weekend and they brought a lot of energy, they were forechecking hard. I don’t know if we just didn’t expect it or what but they definitely came prepared and they got the win because of that. We made a lot of little mistakes and we have to play smarter for sure. We’ve got to come out and start games stronger and that’s where we’re going to start, to start preparing better.”
“That’s one thing with our team, we never give up, and we’ve shown that so that’s a positive to take from the game. But again, you just can’t play hockey that way and if we continue to do that it’s going to kill us. So we have to make changes.”