25 October 2018
Remember that historic victory over defending champion Ak Bars a few weeks ago? It was no fluke. Our second meeting with the Gagarin Cup holder ended in a second victory, this time by a more emphatic margin. Moreover, the win lifts our guys back into the top eight and puts us back on course for a playoff place.
Big games demand big performances. Today, Red Star enjoyed several. Pride of place goes to Alexander Lazushin, without doubt the key man. The bare stats show 29 saves on the way to a 20th KHL shut-out. That overlooks the intense pressure that Ak Bars put on the team, especially in a one-sided third period where the visitor led the shot count 13-1. Lazushin stood up to the onslaught and preserved the three-goal lead Kunlun had assembled in the second period.
There was a big moment for Brayden Jaw as well. Early in the middle frame, our forward got his first ever KHL goal. The 26-year-old, a potential Chinese Olympic prospect, wrestled his way into position on the slot and managed to squeeze home a Greg Squires feed via the skate of visiting goalie Emil Garipov to opening the scoring.
There was a significant contribution from our bench as well. Ak Bars thought it had tied the game in the 27th minute, but Jussi Tapola and his colleagues spotted an infringement in the build-up and appealed for offside. The video review upheld that challenge and Kunlun held on to its lead. Stung, the visitor’s discipline lapsed. Alexei Potapov drew a tripping penalty for his team, but cancelled it out with his theatrics after Martin St. Pierre’s foul, then Alexander Burmistrov followed his team-mate into the box for hooking. Red Star duly converted its first power play of the game thanks to Tomas Mertl. Justin Fontain dictated the play before setting up Johan Sundstrom. The Swede produced the killer pass and Mertl was poised at the back door to double the lead.
In Kazan, Red Star also opened a 2-0 lead only to see the host wipe it out with three goals inside a minute. This time, though, Kunlun quickly extended its advantage. Tomas Kundratek shot from the point, Michael Latta got in Garipov’s face and reacted fastest to stuff the rebound into an open net. With just over half the game played, a 3-0 lead looked commanding.
There was still time for Lazushin to shine, though. The latter stages of the game saw Ak Bars get over its frustrations about that disallowed goal and start piecing together some dangerous offense. Head coach Jussi Tapola admitted after the game that the visitor created at least 20 good scoring opportunities but Lazushin and his defense held firm, even killing two penalties in the closing minutes to bring home the win.
The result shows, once again, that our team is capable of mixing with the best in this league. Two wins against Ak Bars and another against CSKA have shown what the current roster can do. That confidence will be crucial in upcoming games at SKA (October 30) and Avangard (November 5). Hopefully it can also help bring more consistency to the team’s game: two of today’s three goals came from the fourth line, suggesting that we are starting to see greater depth and productivity from this roster. Next up, Torpedo comes to Shanghai: if Kunlun avenges its overtime loss in Nizhny Novgorod, it could be just one point behind its opponent by Friday evening.