Capitals gift wrap a Christmas bonus for Belfast

Richard Hartmann, far right, scores for Caps but it wasn't enough to stop Belfast. Picture: Jan Orkisz/SMP
Richard Hartmann, far right, scores for Caps but it wasn't enough to stop Belfast. Picture: Jan Orkisz/SMP
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Defender Kyle Flemington admitted Edinburgh Capitals gave up far too many “quality chances” during last night’s 5-2 defeat by Belfast Giants at Murrayfield.

Despite playing their third game in as many nights, Giants looked the stronger team from the off and, led by a superb hat-trick from former NHL tough-guy Kevin Westgarth, handed Edinburgh their first regulation time defeat in eight games.

Flemington, who thought he had scored his first goal for the club with Edinburgh trailing 4-1 late in the second period only for it to be chopped off by referee Jonny Liptrrott for interference on the netminder, said: “I thought we played a decent game overall but we gave them too many quality chances and that was our downfall.

“They’re a good hockey club, with a lot of guys who’ve played in the NHL and if you give them the sort of chances we gave them they’re going to capitalise and make you pay. It was frustrating to have my goal disallowed, it was at an important time and would have brought us back into the game, but the final verdict was we had a skater in the crease so we just have to accept that and move on.”

Westgarth, a Stanley cup winner with Los Angeles Kings and with more than 150 NHL appearances to his name, was a step ahead of the Caps all night, and Flemington continued: “He’s a big body out there and you’ve got to respect his size and his toughness. All power to him he played a good game, hopefully next time we’ll do a better job of shutting him down.”

Westgarth gave the visitors a first period lead, stealing in between the Edinburgh defence to convert a Craig Peacock pass before Caps conceded a soft second goal in the 24th minute. A harmless-looking shot from the blue line came off Giants forward Evan Cheverie, looping into the air before nestling in the net behind a deceived Tomas Hiadlovsky in the Capitals goal.

Edinburgh pulled a goal back through player-coach Richard Hartmann at 26 minutes 23 seconds. The Slovakian was back in the line-up after benching himself for three games having been forced to re-shuffle his pack to cover for Riley Emmerson. The Canadian was serving the first of a four-game ban for last week’s check from behind on Braehead Clan forward Matt Haywood.

Having worked hard to get back in the game, Edinburgh conceded just seconds later, Cheverie given too much room to skate through the middle of the ice and blast a shot past Hiadlovsky from the top of the circle.

Westgarth had already scored his second of the game to give Giants a 4-1 lead at the end of the second period, before, in the 47th minute, Capitals forward Daniel Naslund tipped a Lukas Bohunicky shot past Giants goalie Carsen Chubak. However, again Caps conceded straight after scoring, Westgarth completing his hat-trick 20 seconds later to restore Belfast’s three-goal cushion.

Capitals American winger Greg Collins, who played against a familiar face in hard-nosed Giants forward Mark McCutcheon, is adamant last night’s result will not affect the team’s confidence ahead of tomorrow’s Gardiner Conference clash with Dundee Stars.

Collins, who grew up in the same city as McCutcheon, said: “It was just one of those nights. They’re a tough team to play, with three good lines and, when you turn over the puck like we did, they’re going to punish you. We’ve already put this defeat behind us; we have an important Conference game tomorrow, we’ll have no problem getting up for that at all.

“Mark, like me is from Rochester, New York. It’s always nice to see a familiar face and someone you can say hi to after the game.

“It’s crazy how many guys you grow up with end up over in Europe, and you get to see them again and play against them. It’s one of the coolest things about hockey.”