Edinburgh Capitals forward Garrett Milan warned team-mates they must cut out “power-play errors” after two short-handed goals conceded in the third period of the Hogmanay’s Forth derby at Murrayfield was their downfall in a 6-3 loss to Fife Flyers.
Despite the result Edinburgh, who handed a first start to 17-year-old goalie Jordan McLaughlin after Travis Fullerton came down with a bout of flu, put in a battling performance and out-played the visitors for the majority of the game. Power-play mishaps aside, they played a good defensive game in front of their young netminder.
However, ahead of today’s match at Nottingham Panthers, it is now six defeats in a row and, barring a quick return to the line up from Fullerton, who himself has been playing with a hand injury, that number looks likely to increase to seven.
It’s no coincidence that Edinburgh have failed to win a game since Fullerton’s injury, picked up last month against Dundee Stars, and Caps management, who will hold a meeting tomorrow with player-coach Michal Dobron and senior players as how to arrest this slump in form, will need to seriously consider bringing in another experienced goalie to at least work in tandem with the Canadian stopper as he regains full fitness.
Reflecting on Edinburgh’s final game of 2016, which was played in front of a crowd just shy of 2000, Milan said: “It’s tough being short handed and without your starting goalie.
“Fully is so key for us although Jordan came in and did a good job. I thought we played well, we outshot them, we kept things simple for the most part which is how we should be playing but three mistakes cost us.
“We scored two power-play goals, but conceded twice short-handed which we just can’t do, our power-play cost us the game for sure.”
Despite Edinburgh out-shooting the visitors 14 to eight in the opening period, and 39 to 24 on the night, Fife were two up within 11 minutes, through a double from Carlo Finucci.
Edinburgh’s Ian Schultz, who like Jaroslav Hertl returned from injury earlier than expected – the pair more than likely playing through the pain – pulled one back on the power-play in the 16th minute, slamming home a rebound after Flyers goalie Shane Owen saved an initial Jacob Johnston slap-shot.
Poor defensive play between Pavel Vorobyev and Jay King, from the opening face-off of the second period, lead to a turn-over behind Edinburgh’s goal, hanging McLaughlin out to dry. Flyers’ top-scorer Ryan Dingle made no mistake from the slot. Vorobyev redeemed himself when linking up with Schultz at the other end which lead to a tap-in finish for Matt Tipoff, as Edinburgh trailed 3-2 after 40 minutes.
With Flyers running into penalty trouble with 15 minutes to play, Edinburgh smelled blood, but two poor turnovers on the Flyers blue-line just a minute apart lead to two well-taken Flyers break-away goals from Brendan Brooks and Justin Fox.
Jacob Johnston scored Edinburgh’s third goal with seven minutes to play, before the same player couldn’t deal with what was in fairness a hospital pass from Vorobyev, leading to another Flyers break-away, and McLaughlin was unlucky not to keep out Dingle’s effort.
Despite Edinburgh’s poor run, and even after Coventry Blaze picked up a surprise win at Nottingham last weekend, Capitals remain just five points outside a play-off place with half a season to play.
“That’s a positive way to look at it,” agreed Milan.
“However we’ve lost six in a row now which is not good in anyone’s books, but the fact that we are still that close to a play-off place is a good thing. No one likes to lose. Guys realise we’ve had key injuries during this time and we are staying positive as a group. We know that on any given night we can win.
“We lost a close one last time out and we outplayed them for large parts of it.
“We play our best hockey when we focus on getting pucks out of our zone and getting pucks deep when we hit their blue line, then going to work. There is still a long way to go and if we get back to doing that we’ll be fine.”