Edinburgh Capitals faced Cardiff Devils in a midweek fixture on Wednesday night in a scrappy game which saw the home team outplayed to a 5-3 defeat.
The visitors, missing Gleason Fournier, suspended for one game after an illegal check to the head were up against a Capitals team with only Dillon Lawrence and Harry Robertson missing from the line-up. Pavel Vorobyev and Callum Boyd returned to the ice after injury.
The Capitals got off to the best possible start, scoring on the first shift and first shot of the game. Anderson fed Cazzola across the front of the goal for Cazzola to lift it into the top corner, Bowns beaten, with about 40 seconds played.
However Cardiff quickly began to find their game, bringing a strong forecheck in the Capitals defensive end, making it difficult for the Capitals to break the puck out.
Cazzola took a tripping penalty but the teams were a little tentative early on, and the Capitals were able to clear it, having had one good short-handed chance themselves
The Devils continued to pressure the Caps strongly but on those occasions when the Capitals could break out they still looked a threat- as they proved with about ten minutes gone when Kolesnikovs, pinched down the boards and fed Valeyev in the slot. He held, then fired, blasting it past Bowns for a 2-0 lead.
For the remainder of the period, Cardiff were the stronger team and were difficult to dislodge from the offensive end. When the Caps broke out, they got chances - most notably on the Cazzola-Anderson-Vorobyev who had several chances in quick succession around the fourteen minute mark but Bowns was able to make the saves.
Capitals were however able to hang on and see the period out with their two goal advantage intact.
The Devils hit the ice in the second with renewed determination and it quickly showed in the run of play. The Capitals were outplayed from the start, Devils quicker to pucks, with good sticks to disrupt play and quick to support each other.
The Capitals didn't really have an answer and there was a feeling of inevitability about the Devils’ first goal with four minutes played. Once again Cardiff passed to a player in the slot - Martin passing to Pope - and this time the Capitals defence weren’t able to get to him and he had an unimpeded shot on goal and made the most of it to bring Cardiff to 2-1.
Cardiff continued to dominate until around the eleventh minute, when the third line of Ireland, King and Boyd forced a turnover on the Devils as they were transitioning, leaving them relatively unimpeded in the offensive end. Bowns made the save, but the Caps came back hard, pushing to restore their lead and the play became more end to end.
Cardiff appealed for a goal after a scrum of players around the Capitals net, but it wasn’t given. The reason wasn’t clear, but Wilson, the referee, didn’t go to check goal line technology - with the number of Cardiff players in the crease, there would likely have been a good argument for goaltender interference.
The Capitals push back was met by a Devils goal with six minutes left to play of the second period. Once again, a pass by a Capitals player was picked off by Pope in the slot and he sent it past Shegalo to tie the game.
About thirty seconds later, Devils took the lead, when they outworked the Capitals, creating time and space for Hotham to make the pass to Asselin who had a mostly empty net to send the puck into. Pope picked up the second assist for his third point of the night.
The misery was piled on when with less than five minutes to play there’s another frantic battle in the slot which the Capitals are unable to get the puck clear and this time it’s Faryna who scores, top corner, blocker side, to give the Devils a two goal lead and the Devils have scored three in less than three minutes, leading 4-2.
Coach Khristich called a time-out; this seemed to settle the team some and they were able to get out of the period without conceding any more.
Some hope was given to the Capitals in the third, when with three minutes played, the hard-working third line managed a 2-on-1 breakaway, Boyd and Ireland in on goal. Boyd fakes Bowns successfully and scored a beauty which delighted the fans. It was a well deserved goal, that line’s speed had been giving problems to the Devils on several other shifts.
It was a one goal game again and both sides pushed hard to get the next one - this time though it was the Devils who scored, with Paris sending a lovely shot in from above the right circle and beating Shegalo cleanly. He clearly enjoyed the goal, his first of the season, bouncing off the plexi in celebration but more importantly it restored the Devil’s two goal lead to 5-3.
The third period played out with neither side scoring again. The play is more broken and scrappy than in the second, with Capitals getting some chances but can’t beat Bowns and the Cardiff defence; on the other end, somehow, the Capitals keep the puck out of their own net.
It’s so end to end that Capitals don’t risk going empty net and the game finishes 5-3. It wasn’t a highlight of beautiful hockey - it was a hard, grinding game with a lot of stickwork where the Capitals were ultimately outmatched by a Devils side who were hard on every puck and just wouldn’t give the Edinburgh side any space or time on the puck. Both sides had a large number of errors and puck mishandles, but the Capitals’ tended to occur in their own zone, which made life really difficult for them.
Pope’s three point night meant he was Cardiff’s Man of Match, while Boyd got the recognition for his goal and hard work all night for the Capitals.
- Jenny Bell