Edinburgh Capitals claimed their second consecutive win and chalked up their first Gardiner Conference points of the season, with a 5-1 win over the Dundee Stars in a rare mid-week game.
The foundations were laid in an incredible first period in which the Capitals scored four times in the final eight and a half minutes of the period. They did it without defencemen Rihards Grigors and Michael D’Orazio, the latter sitting out this one with a one-game suspension following a check to the head in Manchester last weekend. It made Jaroslav Hertl’s return to the line-up all the more timely.
Feeding off the momentum of Sunday’s 4-1 win over the Coventry Blaze, labelled by many as the Capitals’ most complete performance of the season, Edinburgh were dead set on avenging four defeats to the Stars already this season – although two of those came during pre-season.
A typically frenetic opening to period one was perhaps unsurprising given the Capitals’ new found focus with beginning games on the front foot and Dundee’s penchant for quick rushes and slick offensive play.
After Karel Hromas teed up Jared Staal for an effort that slipped wide, Brett Switzer would go close only for Capitals man of the match Travis Fullerton to block away the shot.
Dundee’s dump and rush style nearly paid dividends soon afterwards when a 3-on-2 situation quickly emerged, but Fullerton would continue the familiar theme of bailing out the Capitals back-line with two fine stops, before Matt Tipoff threw himself in front of Josh Grieveson’s blue-line effort.
The Capitals would go close to breaking the deadlock with that man Tipoff unlucky to see his redirect off Hertl’s initial effort strike the post with Joe Fallon well beaten. Up the other end, the dangerous Cale Tanaka attempted an audacious spin shot and the follow up attempt by Justin Faryna was smartly covered by Fullerton to give the Capitals defence a breather.
Edinburgh were given a further boost with Ian Schultz shaking off a knock that saw him leave Sunday’s game in the first period, and he nearly turned provider for the opener. His shot was only parried by Fallon and the lively Garrett Milan tried his best to tuck home the rebound, to no avail.
The Stars’ hustle nearly fashioned a chance from nothing with player/coach Michal Dobron cheaply surrendering the puck though Switzer’s ensuing effort was well claimed by Fullerton in the Capitals’ goal.
By now the game was firmly end to end. While Edinburgh were knocking on the door following good work by Staal behind the net that created an opening for Mason Wilgosh, Dundee captain Joey Sides attempted a clever wrap-around effort but a sprawling Fullerton somehow kept it out with his left pad.
It set the scene for a crazy last eight minutes of the period in which Edinburgh would take the game away from a shell shocked Dundee side.
Jay King’s neat pass from his own zone orchestrated a move in which Tipoff would find the net for the opening goal with 8:30 to play. There was a slice of fortune about it as Tipoff’s shot would hit Fallon and loop in, but the Capitals were hardly likely to mind.
After Vinny Scarsella tried to haul the Stars level with a shot that tested Fullerton, new Stars signing Kevin Bruijsten was unable to turn home an inviting rebound. But Edinburgh were unfortunate not to round off a good move with the second goal when the impressive Hromas’ pass from behind the net just had too much on it for Pavel Vorobyev.
But as it happens, goal number two wasn’t long in the making and it was one to remember with Taylor MacDougall slamming home top shelf for perhaps the pick of the Edinburgh goals. Good work by Staal found Wilgosh and he showed terrific presence of mind and indeed quick hands to lay on a neat pass for MacDougall in front of the net who finished clinically.
Dundee were left ruing their inability to net a response immediately with Faryna doing superbly well to tee up Mikael Lidhammar who somehow couldn’t turn home from in front of the net. It came after a quick Scarsella chance as the Stars tried to answer immediately.
It was a costly miss as Edinburgh rammed home their advantage with a third goal of the night. Hromas and Yevgeni Fyodorov were quick to keep the puck in deep and Vorobyev capitalised by squeezing the puck under Fallon with 3:04 to play.
Schultz fed Milan soon afterwards with the Capitals clearly in the ascendancy, but they weren’t without their scares with Fullerton saving from Joey de Concilys’s effort from the blue-line and saving smartly from another quick Stars shot.
Yet Edinburgh would round off a blistering period one with a fourth goal courtesy of captain Jacob Johnston, who fired home his first goal of the season with 15 seconds remaining in the period. It stemmed from a Johnston pass across the face of the goal that wasn’t picked up, but Hertl would retrieve the puck deep in the Stars D zone and Johnston somehow squeezed the puck home. It definitely took a deflection, possibly off Fallon’s skate, so there was an element of fortune to it although take nothing away from the strong checking game employed by the hosts which laid the foundations in the period.
Unsurprisingly the Stars were quicker out of the traps in the middle period as they attempted to launch an unlikely comeback. Felix-Antoine Poulin was first to test Fullerton with a sharp effort that was gloved before the Capitals nearly turned into architects of their own downfall.
Tyler Plews was harassed into surrendering the puck in deep but Staal and MacDougall showed their defensive credentials with a critical poke check to deny Switzer from finding a shooting lane. By now the Capitals were definitely on the back foot though there was no shortage of effort and application as the dangerous Tanaka had his shot blocked.
Scarsella nearly turned provider for the Stars’ first goal of the night but incredibly Poulin couldn’t poke home from a promising position. Up the other end, the Stars had brought an aggressive forecheck into period two and the hosts were given a huge let-off when a stray King pass resulted in Tanaka’s superb square pass that wasn’t turned in, with Fullerton producing an outstanding save.
The Stars would go post-to-post on their next offensive series with Fullerton producing two diving saves in quick succession to keep Dundee at bay. Fullerton, who currently has the best save percentage in the entire Elite League, stepped up big to keep a marauding Stars offence at bay.
With Edinburgh trying to relieve some pressure, they would create but squander two or three good openings. First Schultz fired wide on a promising break before Dobron and Tipoff combined to set up Schultz again but it was well blocked by the Dundee defence.
Dundee would also fail to take advantage of their next big opportunity. Scarsella showed patience to feed Sides and his cut-back was miscued by debutant Bruijsten in the slot, an effort that ultimately proved routine for Fullerton. Had he connected as he would have liked, it may have been a different story.
It was to prove to be an incredibly frustrating period two for the Stars who saw chances come and go, though Fullerton in the Capitals’ net made two or three excellent saves to preserve Edinburgh’s four goal lead, with the Stars outshooting the hosts 13-10 in the second period.
Dundee began the final period much as they had ended the second with Edinburgh’s disciplined rearguard holding firm. Lidhammar teed up Sides who would force Fullerton into action early in the period, and the Capitals’ netminder would produce perhaps the save of the game on the next Stars attack.
Lidhammar was again at the heart of it and his pass for Switzer looked destined to find the net only for Fullerton to have other ideas to divert the puck to safety. It was one of a number of highlight-reel saves from Fullerton who stepped up big for the Capitals.
Stars man of the match Kevin Hart would go close with two quick efforts in succession but Dundee against found Fullerton an immovable object in the Capitals net as the visitors continued to be frustrated.
Edinburgh did, however, have an opportunity to relieve some pressure when they cleared the puck into neutral ice with Tipoff firing over after good work by Milan. Tipoff nearly added an assist to an impressive night’s work when his heads up play behind the net found Sean Beattie in a promising position but the Stars were alert with the pokecheck to quell the danger.
It commenced the Capitals’ strongest few minutes offensively in period three with Hromas and Vorobyev combining to set up a stinging Dobron slapshot from the blue-line which, while held well by Fallon, gave Edinburgh a much needed offensive zone face-off opportunity.
Matt White would force Fullerton into action before Tanaka tried an audacious backhanded effort which was comfortably claimed. But they would finally register on the scoreboard with 12:31 to play.
Tanaka was quickest to the puck off the face-off and his neat square pass was turned home by Hart who battled to the front of the net under pressure to reduce the arrears at 4-1. In fairness it was no more than the Stars deserved for their pressure and persistence, leaving Fullerton with no chance to end the Capitals’ hopes of a first shut-out of the season.
Within a minute the Stars were left cursing their luck again when a snapshot cannoned off the post and was scrambled to safety with just over eleven minutes to play. It rather summed up Dundee’s night. Had that gone in it would have made for an intriguing end to the game.
The Stars were certainly not done in this one, but the game was nearly put out of reach when King and Vorobyev combined to good effect with Wilgosh. The latter’s pass was nearly turned home by Vorobyev who just couldn’t control the puck.
The Capitals would go close again when Dobron skated deep into the Stars’ zone and tried to catch out Fallon with a wrap-around effort. Up the other end, Poulin’s stick snapped at the critical moment as he set himself up for the slapshot from Tanaka’s pass from the point.
It was far from the last action. Edinburgh put the ice on a huge win with 1:19 remaining when Wilgosh’s effort was only parried back into the slot and MacDougall pounced to fire home his second of the night and the Capitals’ fifth.
Poulin would try again on another slapshot, to no avail, as the Stars ended a frustrating night with little to show for it. A dominant period two and strong period three didn’t translate onto the scoreboard with Edinburgh putting in a tough defensive performance to protect their four goal first period lead.
It was an important win in the context of the Gardiner Conference standings and to get one over a Dundee side who’ve had Edinburgh’s number so far this season. But critically it sends the Capitals into a tough weekend, with road games against Cardiff and Manchester, with a bit of momentum.
Man of the match Travis Fullerton played down his own contributions, focusing on the team performance and the character shown defensively, as a strong first period laid the foundations for the win with the Capitals withstanding some heavy Dundee pressure.
“The first period was huge. We were trading chances a little bit with them there and then we got a couple of nice bounces on our two goals and sometimes when you get one and two the third and fourth go even easier, so that was a nice surprise. We kind of didn’t play our game, I don’t think, for the second and third but all that matters is we get the two points. We battled hard, guys blocked a lot of shots, playing a lot of big minutes too and it’s not easy, but we’re pretty happy about that.
“Yeah since day one really,” said Fullerton when referencing the character in the dressing room. “They’re playing big minutes, they’re playing hard minutes too like blocking a lot of shots and going on the offence but being responsible defensively, that’s how we’ve got to win games. We’re not going to score four or five every night so we’ve got to rely on good structure and everyone top to bottom, from the forwards to the D, are really buying in and just playing really competitive and good hockey at the moment so it’s good.
“We really wanted, or at least I personally wanted, to make a statement tonight and beat that team – it’s been four in a row that they beat us. They’re a hard team, they have a lot of skill and are tough to defend against. They seem to find an extra guy and make a good pass, so you’ve got to be on your toes. Obviously that start is not going to happen every night, but when it does it’s a nice bonus. They came hard in the second and third period so credit to them, they didn’t give up and they’re a really good team. We’ll expect tough games against them all season long.
“It was a good team win and that’s all it comes down to,” said Fullerton. “Hopefully we’ll build off this into next weekend, rest up the next couple of days and keep going.”