Title chasing Belfast Giants were “too much” for player-coach Michal Dobron’s tired Edinburgh Capitals side who were swept aside 8-3 in Elite League action at Murrayfield last night.
Five unanswered goals in the second half of the match put Belfast on easy street as Edinburgh, playing their third match in as many nights whilst missing Pavel Vorobyev, Sean Beattie and Michael D’Orazio through injury, could not match the intensity that had seen them pick up vital wins at Dundee Stars and Fife Flyers on Friday and Saturday.
Dobron said: “We were a tired team, especially in the third period. We played very well on Friday and Saturday.
“I spoke to the guys and told them with this being our third game in a row we can’t play the same hard style, it was a lesson for us. I believe Belfast are the best team in the league and when we made a mistake they scored, it’s that simple.
“That’s the first time we’ve played three in three this season, the final score was down to tiredness and nothing else.
“Perhaps if we’d played a different team last night the result could have been different but to play Belfast in the third game was too much for us.”
Dobron’s pre-match advice to take it easy looked to have fallen on deaf ears as Edinburgh took the game to Belfast in the early stages. But they were punished for their over-eagerness to get forward, Colin Shields opening the scoring for the visitors on a breakaway in the fourth minute. Edinburgh’s response was immediate, Jaroslav Hertl firing home 20 seconds later with a rasping slap-shot for his first ever goal at Murrayfield, the big Slovakian punching the plexi-glass in celebration.
Playing five-on-five Edinburgh looked to be coping with Belfast who, at the top of the table trail league leaders Cardiff Devils by a single point, but as soon as Mason Wilgosh was called for slashing in the 17th minute, Belfast looked dominant with the extra man. Giants zipped the puck around Murrayfield’s big ice, before Sields, parked in front of the crease, got his stick on a clever Derek Walser slap-pass to divert the puck beyond Edinburgh goalie Travis Fullerton.
Getting in the face of the goalies was a tactic employed well by both teams, Karel Hromas with an almost identical goal, diverting a Rihards Grigors slap-shot to tie the game at 2-2 in the 23rd minute. Jonathan Boxill soon put Belfast back in front, however, Matt Tipoff was rewarded when he crashed the net, the slap-pass again paying dividends, as the Canadian deflected home Taylor MacDougall’s effort.
Crucially, Edinburgh conceded again almost immediately, a cheap giveaway punished by Chris Higgins as he picked off a wayward pass and showed great hands to Deke Fullerton for 4-3. And when Edinburgh, with less than two minutes to play of the second period, were penalised for having too many players on the ice, another power-play goal followed for Belfast, Steve Saviano finding the top corner from just inside the blue line to give Belfast a 5-3 lead after 40 minutes.
Edinburgh wilted in the third period, an aggressive fore-check that caused Belfast problems earlier in the game just wasn’t there, and when experienced forward Yevgeni Fyodorov, under no pressure, pirouetted into the path of Jacob Johnston causing a turnover and a goal for Belfast captain Adam Keefe, Capitals’ race was run.
Matt Nickerson and James Desmarais added late goals as Belfast dominated the final minutes.
Despite what was on paper a heavy home defeat, Dobron, who scored a third period equaliser and the overtime winner against Fife on Saturday, was pleased with the efforts of his players over what was always going to be a difficult weekend for the Murrayfield men.
“I’m happy with four points from these games,” he said. “Winning in Dundee and Fife are obviously good results and good for our confidence and mindset for the rest of the season.”
And when asked about his own heroics in Fife, Dobron interrupted: “There are no heroes here, it was a great team result. If I hadn’t scored, somebody else would have because we had a five-on-three power-play at the end; it wasn’t a good night for me, it was a good night for all of us.”