Panthers 3 Capitals 2

This had the potential to be a cracker, Panthers coming off an excellent 7-5 win in Belfast and fighting for the runners-up spot, Capitals fighting for the eighth and final play-off spot with Hull. The home side welcomed David Clarke back to the line up after a 13 game absence. Yet again Panthers managed to attract a crowd of over 4,000, no need to close off blocks at the NIC, unlike other arena’s we could mention!

Panthers were slow out of the blocks and found themselves 2-0 down after just seven minutes. Firstly, Brad Bonello reacted quickest to a poor pass round the boards by Michel Robinson, drilling the puck into the net from a tight angle. The second came on the powerplay, a scramble around the net lead to the puck squeezing in via Robinson’s shoulder, Doug Christiansen credited with the goal. It was obvious that Edinburgh had come to play and to rough it up a bit! Firstly a shocking hit from behind by Adam Stefishen left Jade Galbraith on the ice but inexplicably called as holding by referee Dean Smith. Shortly after, Christiansen delivered an elbow to the side of Johan Molin’s head right in front of Smith, no call! The match was now threatening to get out of hand, Bruce Richardson was spoiling for a fight with anyone in a blue shirt and Smith seemed to have lost all control. Things calmed down a little, and with Panthers on the powerplay a goal finally came. Dan Tessier played a perfect pass to Kevin Bergin right in front of the net and he made no mistake. The equaliser nearly came 30 seconds later as Tessier completely undressed the defenceman only to see his rocket of a shot come back off the crossbar. The first ended with the visitors 2-1 up, but a man down after Jason Cassels was called for a hooking penalty.

After the fun and games of the first period, their was much anticipation of a bit of a blood bath! Unfortunately this wasn’t to be the case! Panthers equalised on the powerplay very early on in the period, Tessier putting a bullet of a shot past Pasi Raitanen. For the rest of the game it was more or less one way traffic, but as with the last meeting between the two sides at the NIC, Panthers found Raitanen in inspired form once again and the Caps had him to thank for keeping them in the game.

The third period was in a similar vein to the second, with Panthers dominating but unable to find a way past Raitanen once again. A powerplay opportunity in the 50th minute saw Panthers finally take the lead, as Brendan Cook’s rocket found the roof of the net. Caps pulled Raitanen for the final minute but struggled to get into the Panthers zone, Bergin managing to miss the empty net twice to put the game beyond doubt. Injury worries reared their head once again as Molin went off with a gashed cheek after taking a puck to the face (no doubt some will blame this on a lack of enforcer!)

All in all a good win for the Panthers, not as flashy as some this season but ground out through hard work. The runners-up spot is still a possibility, however if we are to win the play-offs then we shouldn’t fear any team who we get in the quarter finals.

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