Capitals look to the Stars for vital points

Capitals Matt Tipoff lets rip a ferocious shot at Ervins Mustukovs

Capitals Matt Tipoff lets rip a ferocious shot at Ervins Mustukovs

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Despite a spirited effort, Edinburgh Capitals were beaten 3-0 by Sheffield Steelers at Murrayfield last night.

The visitors, thanks to an expertly taken double from GB Internationalist Robert Dowd and a late Levi Nelson strike, deserved their win, Edinburgh goalie Travis Fullerton with 39 saves keeping his side in the game until the final minutes.

Steelers, after losing on Saturday night to bitter rivals Nottingham Panthers, came out all guns blazing, out-shooting Edinburgh 19 to five in the opening period. Dowd dispatched Nelson’s clever back-hand pass to give Sheffield the lead in the 17th minute.

Fullerton said: “We kept it close for 50 minutes, they are a good team and we knew they were going to come out hard after losing on Saturday. We had chances of our own, but we didn’t get any bounces going our way. You’ve got to credit their goalie too, he made some big stops for them.”

Sheffield dominated the game for the first 40 minutes in terms of possession and dictated the tempo. At times Steelers were ultra aggressive on the fore-check, a high risk strategy, however they played it well, Edinburgh struggling to get the puck out of their defensive zone, and only Mason Wilgosh broke clear, his one-on-one with Sheffield goalie Ervins Mustukovs saved with a flashy glove by the Latvian in the 25th minute.

Although Fullerton argued, it’s harder than it looks to take advantage of Sheffield’s attacking style, which to the casual observer appeared gung-ho at times.

“They press you so hard, they take your time and space away and you have to think quickly, you don’t want to just cough up the puck,” Fullerton said. “It’s hard on our ‘D’ who tonight did a helluva job. They’re one of those teams that are hard to exploit because they are so well coached and managed.”

Edinburgh came a lot more into the game as an attacking force in the final period, and did well to kill a four minute penalty right after the break – Jacob Johnston sent to the penalty box after his high stick caught the face of Steelers’ Yared Hagos.

Caps had chances, including a rasping Ian Schultz effort that cannoned of the post, however Sheffield scored a vital second goal in the 46th minute, a lovely turn and backhand finish from Dowd that oozed quality.

In fairness Edinburgh could have done little to stop both of Dowd’s goals last night, however Sheffield’s third, scored by Nelson with five minutes remaining was frustrating. The Canadian came straight from a face-off and shrugged off some powder-puff defence from Edinburgh to score from point-blank range.

Sunday completed a disappointing weekend for Edinburgh, after a poor defensive display saw them come out on the wrong end of a 7-5 shoot-out at Braehead Clan on Saturday. Garrett Milan with two, Taylor MacDougall, Johnston and Schultz were on target for the Murrayfield men.

Edinburgh are next in action on Wednesday at Dundee Stars, and Fullerton stressed “run-and-gun” encounters like the one witnessed in Glasgow have to stop if Caps are to make ground on Dundee and Coventry Blaze in the race for the final play-off spot.

He said: “Defensively, we have to be better most games and if we take care of that, we’ll get chances because we have a lot of skill on our team. If we can keep the puck out of our net we’ll win games. We scored five on Saturday, but give up seven and lost. Its about taking care of our own end.

“Braehead was one of these types of games we just don’t want to be involved in. We can’t play run-and-gun with these teams. The ice is too big and teams have too much time and space.

“We can try and dictate the game as much was we can but we need to be smart in out own end and the neutral zone, myself included.

“We’re six points back, we have games in hand but without wins we’re not going to climb the ladder. We have 13 games left and we have to get on a roll here if we want to be playing meaningful games in March. Beating these top teams is a challenge but we have the guys to do it.”