But it wasn’t the cakewalk some people may have expected.
Although the Caps swept the seven-game regular-season series and finished 34 points ahead of the Miramichi Timberwolves, two third-period goals were needed for a 4-2 victory in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Roger Meek Division semifinal series.
“We knew it was never going to be easy going into the series,” said Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan. “The playoffs are always hard. They gave us a good game today (Sunday), they worked really hard.”
Before an announced crowd of 1,140 fans, JP Harvey beat Timberwolves goaltender Jordan Kennedy over the left shoulder from the top of the left-wing faceoff circle at 5:19 of the third period to break a 2-2 tie.
“I got a nice pass across the ice, slowed up, tried to get it on net and it happened to go in,” said Harvey, who was set up by Chris Caissy and Jon Aubertin.
Craig MacLauchlan scored 1:18 later at 6:27 to restore the Caps’ two-goal lead, 4-2.
Danny Chiasson and Aubertin’s power-play goal staked the Caps to a 2-0 first-period lead. Danny Hicks got the Timberwolves on the board before the first intermission, and Rankyn Campbell’s goal at 3:09 of the middle frame sent the teams to the dressing room after 40 minutes tied 2-2.
“We started off real well,” assessed McGuigan. “The first 10 minutes we dominated a bit, got a couple of quick goals and then sat back on our heels.
“We thought it was going to be easier than it was, and we kind of got away from our game plan for 20 minutes.”
Although the teams entered the third period tied, McGuigan said there was no sign of panic in the dressing room between periods two and three.
“I don’t think we were concerned at any time,” said McGuigan. “We thought we could win the hockey game.
“We just had to settle back into the game, and start doing the little things we did to help us win in the regular season.”
Timberwolves head coach Robert MacDonald felt his team rebounded well from a slow start.
“We haven’t been in a playoff game in two years, and for a lot of these kids this is their first playoff game at this level,” said MacDonald. “Summerside took it to us early, but I thought when we got the (first) goal the tide really turned.
“We knew it was never going to be easy going into the series. The playoffs are always hard. They gave us a good game today (Sunday), they worked really hard.” - Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan
“I thought for the rest of the way we really played with them. They had a couple of, I’m going to say, softer goals. That was the difference in the game for sure.”
The final shots-on-goal totals were 39-24 in favour of the Capitals, who held 16-6 and 15-10 advantages in the first and third periods. Each team recorded eight shots in the middle frame.
Kevin Bailie earned the goaltending win while Kennedy took the loss. Kennedy stopped 24 of 28 shots before he was pulled following the Caps’ fourth goal. Julien Daigle stopped all 10 shots he faced over the final 12:33.
Referee Paul Matte whistled a total of nine minor penalties – five of those against the Capitals. Each team had three power plays, with the Caps scoring the game’s only goal with the man advantage.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven Roger Meek Division semifinal series is in Miramichi, N.B., on Tuesday night, with Game 3 back in Summerside on Thursday at 7 p.m.
“You never like losing, we are not happy with a loss,” said MacDonald. “I do like the effort our kids put forward, and we will be ready for Game 2.”
A look at Sunday’s
1. JP Harvey: Capitals forward scored the game-winning goal at 5:19 of the third period. Harvey’s goal broke a 2-2 tie.
2. Jon Aubertin: Capitals forward continued his consistent play with a power-play goal and an assist. He also assisted on the game-winning goal.
3. Thomas Stavert: Capitals forward from Kensington played a steady game at both ends of the rink. Had a couple of scoring chances and earned an assist.