The Edinburgh Capitals shrugged off the disappointment of being knocked out of the Challenge Cup, by claiming two huge Gardiner Conference points in a thrilling 6-4 come from behind win against Braehead Clan.
Both sides traded early half chances with Taylor MacDougall and Mason Wilgosh combining well, only for the attempted effort to be brilliantly sticked away by a covering Clan defenceman. Up the other end, Scott Pitt’s heads up play nearly brought reward for the visitors as he played the puck in front for Alex Leavitt, though the Capitals survived unscathed.
The open nature of the period continued with Lee Baldwin and Matt Haywood combining to tee up Pitt, though Travis Fullerton got down well to make the save with the pad. Clan netminder Gary Russell was called into action himself soon afterwards following a neat one-two between Pavel Vorobyev and Mason Wilgosh.
But the Capitals would be left cursing their luck following a strong face-off win. An initial shot was blocked and the lively Garrett Milan was alert to round Russell, only for his effort to crash against the post as he attempted to sweep home.
Edinburgh continued their positive start with Vorobyev finding MacDougall for the snapshot though Clan man of the match Russell met it well. The visitors would be inches away from finding the net when a Trevor Hendrikx bullet was partially dealt with by Fullerton but Pitt wasn’t able to steer home the rebound.
Vorobyev gave a glimpse of what was to come, on what would be a memorable night for the former NHLer, as his strong skating behind the Braehead net pulled the defence out of position and his neat cut back found linemate Wilgosh who forced Russell into work.
The Capitals would strike the iron again following a neat exchange of passes between Yevgeni Fyodorov and Jared Staal who pass-come-shot crashed against the post from a tight angle.
But it would be the visitors who would strike first, punishing Edinburgh’s inability to cash in. The catalyst was tremendous pressure on the power play following a tripping call against Jacob Johnston. While the Capitals survived the penalty, just as Johnston stepped out of the box the Clan worked it well for Leavitt who fired top shelf past a wrong footed Fullerton with 7:35 to play.
Undeterred by that setback, Edinburgh were quickly back on the front foot. Neat work at the boards by Milan fed Ian Schultz and his shot forced a reaction save from Russell.
The Capitals’ first power play chance presented an opportunity to pin the Clan deep in their own zone. Having worked it well, Clan had Russell to thank for a superb triple save to preserve their lead. MacDougall was first to try his luck and, after Russell parried the initial effort, Wilgosh looked destined to tuck home but was twice denied by the big frame of the Clan netminder.
It ended Edinburgh’s best sustained spell of pressure in the opening period, but they wouldn’t have to wait long for the leveller in period two.
51 seconds was all it took for Vorobyev to notch up his first goal of the night, but it owed an awful lot to Wilgosh’s persistence on the forecheck as the Clan failed to clear their zone. The puck eventually broke to Vorobyev and it was never in doubt as he tucked beyond Russell for 1-1.
What would prove to be a back and forth period nearly delivered another strike soon afterwards. It came rather innocuously as Michal Dobron flashed the puck into the backboards and behind the Clan net but it inadvertently set Leavitt up on the breakaway chance. The Capitals were given an almighty let off when he could only fan his effort when well placed.
But the visitors were in no mood to feel sorry for themselves. It commenced a host of chances for Braehead with Pitt’s effort on net smartly redirected by Haywood. While the initial effort was partially cleared, Matt Beca forced a smart stop by Fullerton to keep the scores level.
A huge chance would then come and go for Ryan Finnerty’s men. Daniel Ahsberg did superbly well to fashion his own chance before squaring for the arriving Jay Rosehill, but the former NHLer failed to tuck home at the back door.
Up the other end, a marauding bit of play by Dobron deserved greater reward when he skated all the way behind the net and fed the arriving MacDougall in the slot, but unfortunately for the hosts the shot was dragged wide.
And with 9:26 to go in period two, the Capitals were left to rue that miss. A defence splitting pass set Pitt away on a 2-on-1 chance and, after feigning the pass, he slammed home blocker side to give Braehead the 2-1 lead.
The end to end nature of the contest continued with Staal finding Karel Hromas for an effort from the slot, but the Capitals were nearly caught out on an odd-man rush up the other end. Craig Peacock fired a neat strike and Fullerton had to be alive to parry away with the blocker.
It commenced a crucial passage of play as the Clan came close to a third of the evening. The fact the scoreline remained as it did owed much to a heads up play by Jay King to pokecheck the attempted rebound try at the backdoor, following an initial Beca chance.
Within moments of that piece of defensive play, the Capitals were level. MacDougall and Vorobyev combined well to feed Hromas and, from a similar position to their first of the night, he managed to squeeze the puck past Russell for 2-2 with 5:43 to play.
Arguably that was the momentum changer. Buoyed by that strike and with the crowd geed up, Edinburgh would find the net again to make it 3-2 – their first lead of the night – just over a minute later.
It came after Staal was close to a highlight reel goal of his own, but standby for a rocket from Schultz on the CapsTV highlights. Picking up a loose puck at centre ice, superb trickery with a toedrag by the Canadian presented an opening and he made no mistake, firing the puck top shelf across Russell.
But it would prove to be a very short lived lead indeed. The Clan came fighting back, though Edinburgh will be disappointed with the manner of the goal. Having failed to clear the initial shot by Scott Aarssen, Braehead capitalised with a brilliant strike of their own. Take nothing away from Peacock though who rifled an effort past Fullerton to knot the game up at 3 apiece with 2:55 to play.
Edinburgh went into period three with 27 seconds left on a power play chance, but it would prove to be a quiet night on the special teams’ front with both sides a combined 0-8 on the man advantage.
With the game evenly poised, both sides would find the side netting early in period three. First Wilgosh’s effort from the point was just the wrong side of the post, before Mike Hammond would follow suit up the other end following a neat Rosehill feed.
Braehead captain Matt Keith would have their next best chance of note, firing an effort from a Haywood cutback that was well blocked.
You got the sense that the next goal would be vital in determining the destiny of this one and, crucially, the Capitals grabbed it.
It came after terrific work by Wilgosh to make amends for miscontrolling the puck behind his own net. He tied up Rosehill and then fired a precision pass straight to Vorobyev on the breakaway and, though Russell saved well from the initial chance, the forward made no mistake on the rebound for his second and Edinburgh’s fourth with 13:36 to go.
That was clinical finishing at its finest, but the hosts were given a warning as to the threat of the visitors as Ahsberg raced through on a breakaway of his own, only for Fullerton to save with the pad and then gobble up Rosehill’s rebound.
After Keith flashed a quick effort wide, Edinburgh had two big chances to give themselves some breathing room. First Vorobyev found MacDougall with Russell making himself big to keep it out and then Dobron and Matt Tipoff combined to tee up Milan, but again the Clan had Russell to thank.
Braehead were knocking on the door and ought to have levelled the contest soon afterwards. Fullerton reacted well to deny Hammond as Edinburgh managed to scramble the puck clear, before Ahsberg failed to tuck in at the back door following earlier good work off a turnover.
The hosts were having to dig deep defensively, epitomised by strong play by Michael D’Orazio to cut out Keith’s intended square pass for Hammond. Edinburgh then had Fullerton to thank for keeping them in front following a reaction save, as the Capitals nervously cleared the rebound.
But then came what looked to be the clincher, the catalyst for which was a sweet Schultz pass for Vorobyev. Racing through on Russell it never looked to be in much doubt as he fired home his second hat-trick of the season and Edinburgh’s fifth of the night.
Braehead were not done there though. Virtually from the faceoff, following a mad scramble in front, Hammond was credited with the final touch as he bundled the puck over the line. It was scrappy, but the Clan were not likely to mind, cutting Edinburgh’s lead to 5-4.
By now, the Capitals were hanging on as they attempted to resist relentless Braehead pressure. Clan captain Keith fired wide when well placed in front and then hearts were in mouths from a Capitals’ perspective when Fullerton gloved Beca’s drive but couldn’t hang on.
With time winding down, Braehead pulled Russell in favour of an extra skater as they threw everything in search of the game-tying goal. However, Edinburgh would have the final say.
As the Clan continued to pile on the pressure, Vorobyev capped a superb night for him and the Capitals to stroke home the empty netter with time expiring – his fourth goal of a five point game – to make it 6-4.
It proved to be the perfect response to their lopsided second leg defeat in Sheffield on Saturday night, building on last weekend’s big win over the Coventry Blaze.
The Elite League table is looking increasingly tight so Edinburgh will take the points in whatever way they can get them, but the manner of the win and the fact it was a Gardiner Conference tussle will perhaps make it that little bit sweeter.
After the game, Capitals’ four-goal forward Pavel Vorobyev reflected on a great night for him and the team, as well as offering his thoughts about Edinburgh’s Challenge Cup exit to the Sheffield Steelers.
“It was a very important two points for us. Last night was disappointing. Now we’re done with the Challenge Cup we can focus on the Elite League and we need to be stronger and go forward.
“I think we have character and sometimes we can play well. Some shifts we played very bad, in our zone we had some turnovers on the blue line but mostly, when we win games here, we play a very good game. Everything’s in our heads, if we focus on the game we can play a very good game.
“Sheffield have a very good team, they are a very skilled team and they played a fast system. At home I think we played a great game but last night [Saturday] was a very bad game for us. Maybe it was because of the long trip to Sheffield, we didn’t have a lot of energy or a lot of power. They played their game and it was very disappointing. Now we need to forget about that and just keep going forward, play the Elite League games, and especially be prepared for next weekend.
“Yeah, we did speak about it in the room,” said Vorobyev when asked if consistency is the key word in the Capitals dressing room. “We spoke about the game and each guy on our team was disappointed about last night. Every guy kept their focus for the game tonight and we played a great game.”