Edinburgh Capitals snapped their nine-game losing streak in dramatic fashion at Murrayfield last night, pipping Sheffield Steelers 4-3 after penalty shots.
Recent Edinburgh signing Ned Lukacevic was the only scorer in a nervy shoot-out after David Rutherford forced overtime with a game-tying goal four minutes from time.
The win moves Caps off the bottom of the Elite League and just three points out of a play-off place.
Player-coach Riley Emmerson hailed his team’s performance, and with closest challengers Coventry Blaze holding four games in hand over the Murrayfield men, claimed Edinburgh must treat each game from now until the end of the season like a cup final if they are to climb back up the table.
Emmerson, said: “That’s the ugly win we were looking for to stop the bleeding and get some positivity and confidence back.
“Guys stepped up big; players like David Rutherford who scored two huge goals for us. We played better as a whole, and we made some adjustments after the first period which helped us.
“We have a lot of games coming up that are going to make or break our season. We play Coventry three times, two of which are at home and Manchester four times. That’s 14 points up for grabs right there.
“We’ve got to play every game here like it’s our last, if we do that the play-offs are still very achievable.”
It was a gutsy performance from the home side, who’s heads could easily have gone down after surrendering a two-goal first period lead to trail 3-2 with 11 minutes remaining, after GB Internationalist, and former Capitals blue-liner Ben O’Connor, scored to give the visitors their first lead of the game.
It was a match played at a frenetic pace and that clearly unsettled Sheffield who would surely have skated away with both points had they not lost their discipline in the third period, handing Edinburgh late power-play opportunities and home defenceman Kyle Bigos a gash to his face after being caught by the stick of Steelers’ Swedish forward Fredrik Vestberg.
The chippy nature of the game did not surprise Emmerson, who said: “It was their third game in three nights, and we’re obviously scrapping and clawing for everything we can get right now. It was just one of these games and was full of ups and downs.
“A game on the rush like that suits our style, but when we play run-and-gun that’s when we get caught and make bad turnovers. Before the game our captain Paul Zanette challenged us to have no turnovers on the blue-line and we did a much better job of that.”
Sheffield dominated the early stages but Edinburgh struck first in the 14th minute, a long-range Rutherford effort got through Steelers’ goalie Marek Pink who was clearly put off by the sight of the on-rushing Trevor Gerling desperate to get to any rebound.
Lukacevic increased Edinburgh’s lead three minutes later, blasting a ferocious slap-shot past Pinc from just inside the blue-line. However, Sheffield, who out-shot their hosts 14 to seven in the first period, pulled one back in the 20th minute. Defenceman Jace Coyle took a Tyler Mosienko pass in his stride and, whilst gliding to the left of Edinburgh goalie Carsen Chubak, fired a slap-shot from the top of the circle just beyond Chubak’s outstretched glove and inside the right-hand post.
As the pace and intensity of the game increased, Steelers’ recent signing Guillaume Desbiens scored the only goal of the second period, another lovely feed from Mosienko found him alone in the slot to rifle a shot past Chubak who had no chance.