After seven months of a campaign that will be filed and deleted from memory for some, Edinburgh Capitals almost gave the fans something positive to remember in their final game of the season, but saw it dashed by Nottingham Panthers in a 4-3 loss.
All they wanted was one victory to allow the long-suffering support something to be cheerful as they left Murrayfield Ice Rink for the last time before the cycle of ice hockey emotions begin again in September.
They were denied it in an almost cruel fashion against a team who booked their play-off spot weeks ago and were playing for placing in the final standings as they came to Edinburgh with four points out of four from what had been a successful weekend so far in Scotland.
The impressive performance, on the back of what has been an otherwise wretched season, left interim co-coach Jock Hay feeling bittersweet post game.
“I was going to say to the guys in the dressing-room after the game there I was ready for the end of the season and thankfully it was all over because it’s been that bad, but when you see the performance they gave here, you’re left wishing we didn’t see more of that earlier in the season.
“It was a really good performance for the last game of the season. We actually deserved something from the game, we put them under pressure and had good chances. That being said, our first two goals came about from bad bounces, but we took them.”
Nearly two weeks since Panthers smashed 12 past the Capitals, Edinburgh made a better fist of it against them and whether it was complacency or not, who knows, but the Capitals took advantage of the slow start of their opponents and were two up after the first 20 minutes.
The opener came just before the ten-minute mark when the Capitals surged forward into the visitors’ zone and although Ainars Podzins’ initial effort was parried by goalie Michael Garnett, Denis Trakhanov tucked away the rebound.
This unleashed almost a torrent of pressure on Nottingham as Edinburgh sought a quick second and it came as a result of a bad line change which saw the Caps through on Garnett, leaving Podzins to double the lead.
As has been the case quite often with the Murrayfield side, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is and that was the case early in the second period when the two-goal lead was cut to one as Mark Derlago fired a powerful shot into the roof of Jordan McLaughlin’s net.
A powerplay led to another from Edinburgh and from Podzins, finishing from the right side with four to play in the middle period and, looking the better team at this stage, fans were perhaps starting to dream this night could be theirs.
No sooner had this thought possibly entered their heads when Jeff Brown notched one back, finishing a rebound from close range after a scramble had broken out in front of McLaughlin’s crease and the lead was cut to one again.
A minute into the third and Brown struck again to level the game as that familiar feeling came back for the Capitals, compounded by Mike Vaskivuo’s game-winner a short time later, from which Edinburgh couldn’t recover.
With eight minutes to go, McLaughlin was withdrawn as backup Kevin Forshall took the ice for the last time as a Caps player before making his next move into retirement. Rightly so, he received the biggest cheer of the night as the home fans showed their appreciation.
While Forshall couldn’t inspire the Caps to what would have been one hell of a victory, he left the building knowing what he meant to the supporters in his 18 years of service as the curtain finally came down on a season that won’t be remembered fondly.
The night before, Capitals were trounced in their final road game of the season as Sheffield Steelers notched up an 11-2 win at the Fly DSA Arena, with Eric Neiley picking up a hat-trick for the home side.
Edinburgh’s responses came from Sergei Banashkov and Trakhanov as Paul Thompson’s men ran riot in their final home regular season game.