Ice Hockey: Panic-stricken Capitals collapse at the death

Curtis Leinweber picks up a pass from Richard Hartmann but his shot is stopped by the Dundee goaltender.
Curtis Leinweber picks up a pass from Richard Hartmann but his shot is stopped by the Dundee goaltender.
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As a barnstormer of an ice hockey match drew to a close, 90 seconds of panic-stricken defending saw Edinburgh Capitals pay the ultimate price as they went down 4-3 to a last-minute Dundee Stars goal at Murrayfield last night.

As Dundee celebrated their comeback win – their third victory in as many nights – Capitals bench coach Jock Hay could do nothing but shake his head at the nature of his team’s last-minute collapse, which both he and Edinburgh defenceman Brent Patry labelled as “unacceptable”.

On the events leading up to the match-winning goal, scored by Stars’ impressive Finish forward Sami Ryhanen, Hay said: “We had three chances to get the puck out of our zone, but instead we were panicking, flapping on the puck and turning it over. Throughout the game there was a lot of stray passing which either got us into a bit of trouble or let the Stars off the hook. This has to be cut out, we need to relax and play the puck properly.

“I’m a firm believer that good communication skills on the ice can be like a sixth man or an extra pair of eyes. If you’re trying to control the puck it’s not always easy to keep your head up and the guys round about you should be shouting instructions to help you out, when you’re under pressure.

“Lack of communication leads to turnovers, and ultimately goals against. Talking to one another on the ice is something we need to be doing more of, and it needs to be sorted out.”

Canadian Patry said of the defeat: “That kind of stuff really cannot happen, especially at home against a team we are fighting so hard with, a team that we need to beat to get into the play-offs. That was a big four-point game and to lose it like that, in the manner we did, is just plain unacceptable. Dundee, for their third match in three nights, showed a lot of resilience. They still seemed to have some energy, and for whatever reason we struggled to match their intensity late in the game.”

Edinburgh got off to the perfect start, Marcis Zembergs converting player-coach Richard Hartmann’s cross-ice pass 57 seconds in. The home side continued to have the better chances, but the visitors drew level when great work down the right from Dundee man-of-the-match Pat Bowen drew the Capitals defence and goaltender Tomas Hiadlovsky out of position, allowing Tim Kraus to score at 15.46. Dundee thereafter came more into the match and took the lead on the power-play through AJ MacLean, before Zembergs scored his second goal of the game in the 36th minute, his shot from a tight angle taking a 
wicked deflection off a Stars defenceman and deceiving goalie Nic Riopel.

In a feisty, penalty-filled encounter, Edinburgh failed to score with no fewer than seven power-play opportunities handed to them by referee Tom Darnell, but, with 13 minutes left, they did register a short-handed goal through Jade Portwood, before MacLean notched his second from close range after muscling his way through the Capitals defence.

In the final ten minutes, buoyed by Friday’s win over Belfast Giants and Saturday’s home victory against Braehead Clan, Dundee enjoyed their best spell of the match, culminating in Ryhanen keeping his head while the Caps defence around him lost theirs. The Finn was allowed far too much room to finish high above Hiadlovsky with 33 seconds remaining.

Yesterday’s results keep ninth-placed Capitals three points outside an end of season play-off spot, and in many respects negates the two points earned after Saturday’s gutsy 3-2 penalty shot victory at Hull Stingrays.