It was - to use a cliche which doesn’t really apply to ice hockey - a game of two halves for the Edinburgh Capitals, in their 1-5 defeat by the Fife Flyers at Murrayfield today.
The Capitals started the game with a lot of jump, which saw Banashkov with a very good chance right on the very first shift, Iles, the Fife goaltender, smothering the puck desperately.
The Capitals carried on their attack through the first power play of the game, given as a result of Heelis boarding Trakhanov behind the Capitals’ net with about two minutes gone. The Capitals maintained puck possession well, moving the puck well and had at least four good chances during the two minutes - all of which Iles had to work hard to make the save on
They continued, once the power play was over, with some strong play in the Fife end, showing good cycling and forechecking to keep the puck in the Flyers end. However, Iles was on his game tonight, and the Fife defence was quick to collapse into the net, meaning they were usually first to clear the dangerous rebounds he was forced to give up.
Even through the Capitals first penalty kill of the game (King, for holding at about 9 minutes played), the Caps disrupted the play well through the neutral zone, making it difficult for the Flyers to set up.
But for all the strong attacking play from the Capitals, they just couldn’t get a puck past Iles who held Fife in the game through the first period.
The play did become more equal as the period progressed, but when Fife scored with two minutes remaining, it was still against the run of play. In fact, Iles had had to make a desperation save at the other end, losing his stick in the process, so the Flyers had hustled the puck out of their zone and scored on the rush, with Finucci finishing the pass from Isaacs.
Edinburgh started the second strongly as well, earning a power play with Gaulthier sent off for charging with about three minutes played. It was a scrappier power play, but the critical moment came with a rebound and scuffle around the net, which D’Orazio finally gets over the line.
It’s the moments the Capitals’ fans have been waiting for and the teddies, dogs, bunnies and assortment of other soft toys are launched onto the ice by the fans in aid of Mission Christmas. Play stops for a few minutes while the teddies are carefully gathered up and stored securely before Santa Claus can come get them.
Unfortunately the buzz around the rink is cut short when, less than two minutes later, after some more sustained pressure from the Capitals, Fife again score on the rush, this time Finucci feeding Mosey.
Capitals kept trying to get one back, but gradually, Fife came back into the game. They survived a long penalty kill - including 40 seconds of 5 on 3 after Heelis is sent off for slashing, followed by Bloodoff for roughing, after D’Orazio is left lying on the ice, helmetless after a coming together. The Flyers took confidence from the kill - and the near breakaway they had at the end of the 5 on 3, with Heelis emerging from the box as the puck is cleared. Shegalo had to come out of the crease to beat Heelis to the puck, but it wasn’t a comfortable clear.
By the end of the second, the Capitals were looking tired, but somehow held on through another penalty kill (Banashkov, holding) to keep the score 2-1.
If the first period had been mainly Capitals, the third period was mainly Flyers as they pushed the Capitals into a number of errors, stealing pucks, forcing turnovers and poor passes. From being dominant, Capitals were struggling to get zone time and increasingly unable to get the puck out of their own zone cleanly.
With about five minutes gone, Shegalo missed on a poke check, leaving Finucci able to skate around him and neatly finish into a large empty net.
The Capitals did have some chances - Cazzola and Vorbobyev combined for a nice give and go passing play, but Iles was once again able to make the save, and hangs onto the puck despite more pressure by Vorobyev.
Then Grigors was called for slashing. He and Schaber had been having a bit of a battle, but Halas, the referee, ended it with the penalty, with about 8 minutes played in the third
Although the Capitals had been killing penalties well until then, Fife were able to score after Shegalo found himself badly out of position, leaving Finucci able to knock it in behind him, for his hat-trick goal and Fife with what feels like an unbeatable 4-1 lead.
The Capitals looked deflated and dejected, and when Valyev was sent to the box at the 11 minute mark, it took less than 10 seconds for the Flyers to score. Finucci was able to send a cross-crease pass to Heelis and Shegalo couldn’t cover the goal quickly enough leaving an easy tap in for Heelis, giving Finucci his fifth point of the night.
At that point Edinburgh changed their goalie, McLaughlin going in to relieve Shegalo. The goalie change seems to steady the Capitals and they are able to get to the end of the game without allowing any more goals.
It is a disappointing end to a game where the Capitals had started well, only to be stymied and frustrated by a goaltender doing his best impression of a wall. Iles earns the Man of the Match for Fife as a result - although Finucci, on a five point night would also have been a strong candidate.
For Edinburgh, Trakhanov took the Man of the Match - he’d been a strong defensive presence all night.
- Jenny Bell