Successful penalties from new signings Sergei Banashkov and Igor Valeyev completed a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Dundee Stars, as Dmitri Khristich secured his first win as Edinburgh Capitals head coach via the shootout.
The Ukrainian had earlier watched his side battle back from a 2-0 deficit, as third period goals from Canadian centre Mike Cazzola and a short-handed strike by compatriot Michael D’Orazio cancelled out Emerson Hrynyk and Taylor Dickin markers for the Stars.
Edinburgh included both Banashkov and Valeyev for the first time this season after the pair missed the opening pre-season game against the University of Manitoba and, with both playing on the same line, they made an immediate impression.
But the Capitals were once again short of their full complement of imports with Konstantin Teslyukevich not arriving in Edinburgh in time to be considered and Alexander Islamov and star returnee Pavel Vorobyev still missing.
In fairness Dundee, who unusually entered their first pre-season game off the back of their competitive opener, were also down three players with forwards Marc-Olivier Mimar, Chris Lawrence and Patrick Lee all unavailable, though Jimmy Jensen did ice for the first time for the visitors.
And Omar Pacha’s Stars would have arrived in Edinburgh full of confidence having registered a 3-2 shootout victory against the Belfast Giants on Saturday night.
The game itself began in typical end to end fashion as Banashkov and Valeyev gave us a glimpse of what they can offer.
The former cut out a stray neutral zone cross ice pass and fed the experienced Valeyev, but former Capital fan favourite Travis Fullerton was alive to divert the effort away with the pad before smothering the rebound.
Indeed, it was Fullerton who was the busier of the two netminders as he was again called into action to neutralise Callum Boyd after Rihards Grigors’ feed had found the Scottish forward bearing down on goal.
However, it was the Stars who took the lead with just under three minutes played with a goal from nothing up the other end.
It arrived in rather innocuous fashion as defenceman Hrynyk let rip from the boundary between the neutral zone and the blue line, beating a stunned Pavel Shegalo who never really reacted in the process.
A bullet it may have been but Shegalo would have been disappointed to have been beaten at his near post with the Capitals trailing for the second straight pre-season outing.
1-0 nearly became two as Hrynyk again tested the Edinburgh netminder with Shegalo’s shaky start there for all to see as he spilled the initial effort before recovering sufficiently on the rebound.
Both sides traded chances with Juris Upitis going close for the Caps and triallist Dillon Lawrence forcing Fullerton into action with the blocker.
Then, a neat stretch pass from Jay King met the stick of Banashkov who fed Valeyev for the effort. On this occasion Fullerton was more than a match saving on successive tries before adequately dealing with a Duncan Speirs blue line effort.
All of that pressure would be in vain though as former Capital Dickin got himself on the scoresheet with just under eight minutes played in the first.
The Capitals won’t look back fondly on how the Stars were able to create something from very little.
In fact the loose coverage afforded to Dickin was even more disappointing in retrospect as he was able to take receipt of Malcolm Gould’s pass from behind the net and slam home from in front with a one-timer.
Suddenly the hosts had it all to do as Dundee’s momentum from Saturday had spilled over in a clinical display of early finishing.
To the Capitals’ credit though they did begin to settle after that double setback but any attempts at a comeback would be a long time in coming.
They ought to have reduced the arrears to one soon afterwards after a series of half chances, though Dylan Anderson could only steer wide off balance with the net at his mercy.
It stemmed from a D’Orazio shot that cannoned off the back boards with Anderson taking Taylor Stefishen’s pass across the crease to within inches of the Dundee net as the first period came to a close at 2-0.
Pacha pulled starter Fullerton after twenty minutes to give former Capital back-up netminder Craig Holland two periods in goal, with the former Manchester Storm coach opting to shuffle his pack.
In truth the second frame began in rather scrappy fashion with a series of half chances coming and going for both sides without the killer opportunity that would really test either Shegalo or Holland respectively.
The Capitals’ penalty kill was again given useful practice after Tyler Plews was deemed guilty of roughing after clearing Jensen out of the home crease with excessive force.
And, just as they were against Manitoba in the week, they were again able to successfully kill off the Stars’ power play hopes.
Chances for Dundee forward Tyler Brickler and Banashkov intersected a Riley Stadel chance, with the 21-year-old Canadian logging shifts as a forward for the visitors.
We were then in for two heart in your mouth situations at either ends of the ice that were both squandered by either side.
Korean-American forward Brickler cleverly took control of the puck after a sweet stretch pass, but was duly denied by a rejuvenated Shegalo who made amends for his nervy opening to the game to register a huge save.
That followed an almighty let-off for the Stars as Boyd, who is still searching for his first goal to mark his Murrayfield homecoming, incredibly steered wide despite finding himself one on one with Holland.
Chances continued to be created though as Edinburgh tried to step up a gear. Cazzola, who already looks to be justifying his place in the side with a man-of-the-match display here, effortlessly glided into the slot before firing an effort straight at Holland.
It was far from one way traffic though as former Manchester Storm forward Adam Harding flashed an effort into the side netting as Dundee went in search of the killer third.
But Edinburgh would be dealt a blow with King limping off the ice with four minutes of the second frame remaining.
It left an already depleted defensive unit down another player with only four out and out defenceman remaining on the bench, leaving Speirs with additional shifts at the back end.
More pressing, however, was the injury King sustained that was later confirmed as a groin injury after the game. There is currently no timetable for his return with Edinburgh presumably taking it day to day.
Crucially, particularly given how the third period panned out, Edinburgh did not find themselves three down, though they had Harry Ferguson to thank for a superb poke check at the back door to deny Dickin his second of the night.
A slick pass across the crease from Jordan Cownie had forced Shegalo post to post with the Capitals just about doing enough to survive, though they still had a lot to do in the third to get anything out of the contest.
Thankfully from the hosts’ perspective they had the desired quick start to the third frame, halving the arrears with just 43 seconds played.
It had shades of Dundee’s second goal about it with Stefishen biding his time behind the net before finding the dangerous Cazzola out in front. It was never in doubt as the centre fizzed an effort five-hole on Holland for 2-1.
The home side survived a couple of scares though as Stadel’s initial effort off Shegalo’s pad sat up invitingly for the rebound and then, a few series later, Jensen bore down on Speirs and fired an effort across Shegalo and onto the post.
Up the other end a stinging Upitis slap shot had Holland on his toes before both Banashkov and D’Orazio were then denied in quick succession.
If Edinburgh were upping the ante in search of the leveller, the Stars could and perhaps should have sealed the game within minutes.
One feature of Dundee’s play this season will surely be exploiting the pace they have in abundance, and the diminutive Gabriel Levesque could have iced the contest had he shot and not unselfishly played a pass across the Caps crease.
But with 3:26 to play it didn’t look too costly a missed invitation with the Stars on the power play following a sloppy too many men on the ice penalty that saw Ferguson sit for two minutes.
Incredibly though the Capitals were undeterred and knotted the game up short-handed courtesy of a bullet bar-down slap shot from D’Orazio with 2:21 left in the game, and 56 seconds of the Dundee power play remaining, assisted by Valeyev and Cazzola.
It was then into 3-on-3 overtime, the second time in as many days for the visitors, with everything still to play for.
D’Orazio, Cazzola and Stefishen started the five minutes of additional time opposite Stadel, Cownie and Dickin but neither side could force the issue despite several half chances for both teams.
So it was on to the shootout with Jensen firing home into the bottom left corner first up despite Shegalo getting something on the effort.
Misses from Cazzola and Cownie left Banashkov with the task of levelling the score at 1-1 in the shootout, and he duly obliged with nice hands to make Holland commit before tucking away neatly.
Stadel and Calum Robertson both failed to hit the target, while Dickin and Stefishen hit the post and bar respectively to leave the shootout evenly poised.
But after Levesque’s miss, all eyes fell on 36-year-old Valeyev who sent the home fans into raptures with a cool, calm and collected finish to take the shootout 2-1 and with it the game.
Edinburgh Capitals coach Dmitri Khristich could not conceal his delight at registering a hard-fought come-from-behind win against the Dundee Stars but felt there was not much to choose between the two sides.
“I’m not really happy, I’m just a little bit happy. The outcome is fine and I’m glad we came back from a 2-0 score in the third period and tied it up. We eventually got some luck in the shootout which, like everybody says, is luck one way or another.
“I thought we also played a solid game against Manitoba. It was an even game back then and it was an even game this time also, both shot wise and chances wise.
“They’re just a team from our league which we’ll have to face during the season and it was nice to see how they’re feeling. They have a team that is as good as ours so it is going to be fun to watch every game.”
Khristich, who had a bigger complement to choose from than he did against Manitoba on Tuesday, lauded the contributions of new forwards Sergei Banashkov and Igor Valeyev who successfully netted in the shootout to give Edinburgh the win.
He also expects to have a couple of extra bodies heading into the inaugural Scottish Cup pre-season tournament next weekend.
“Obviously you could see that in the shootout [what Sergei Banashkov and Igor Valeyev bring]. Both of them scored and we won because of them. They are players with a lot of games behind them, so they really showed a lot of confidence on the ice and I hope everybody else will take it from them.
“I’m not sure but we’ll have a couple more [Konstantin Teslyukevich and Alexander Islamov]. We have a couple still not playing right now because they don’t have full equipment but in the next game we’re going to have them in the line-up and I think we’re waiting on another one or two.”
Meanwhile, man-of-the-match Mike Cazzola continued his impressive start to life at Murrayfield adding another assist to his assist against Manitoba and also netting his first goal in Edinburgh colours.
The 26-year-old Canadian believes the team are slowly getting up to speed and expects the side to keep improving.
“I think we’re progressively getting better. We’ve only really been skating for a week and a half and there were a couple of times where the chemistry wasn’t really there, but that’s kind of to be expected.
“We’re getting better a lot faster than I thought we would so we’ve just got to keep it positive, it’s the start of the season and I thought we had a good game out here.
“Obviously we can improve and everyone in the room knows that, we’ll just take it one step at a time and we’ll play on Wednesday. We’ll have a couple of practices and start working on some systems and it’ll all come together.”
Cazzola believes that the Capitals played a solid game against the Stars despite falling behind to two early goals and feels that the experience of playing a conference rival so soon is a positive one.
“We’re trying to build off everything and we’re trying to keep it positive. It’s still early and we’re still getting guys on the team that are new so we’re building our chemistry. Good things will happen like tonight.
“I thought we had a pretty good game in the first two periods. I thought we played well but the only difference was we didn’t capitalize on our chances and he [coach Khristich] knew it too, he just said someone’s got to bear down in front of the net and you have to want the puck. We were fortunate to do that two times and tie it up.
“The Manitoba game was good but I think that playing a team in our league and in our conference we kind of set the bar at where we’re at.
“But they still have some imports coming in and we’ve still got three or four so it is still early in the season and we’re going to take some good and some bad out of this game and take it one step at a time.”