Crossbar derails Kunlun

4 December 2018

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Red Star’s latest road trip began with a point at Lokomotiv – and a frustrating sense that it could and perhaps should have been two. It says a lot about the progress that our team has made this season that a game that, a few months ago, might have seemed like an inevitable defeat against powerful opposition, now sees us disappointed at only claiming a solitary point.

Losing in a shoot-out is always hard to take. This season, penalty shots have not been a strong point for the team and this was our third loss in four games that went the full distance. Indeed, as a team we’ve struggled when the clock ticks past 60 minutes: of seven games that were tied after three periods, six have ended in defeat.

Today, though, the feeling was worse than usual. After battling to a 1-1 tie against a talented young Lokomotiv team, our guys got into a strong position in overtime. A power play came our way when Yegor Averin was called for tripping; the offense took advantage of the extra man to set Brandon Yip into a shooting position, the shot beat Alexander Salak … and dinged off the bar to safety. Such are the margins by which games are won and lost. Salak, reprieved, had all the answers in the shoot-out and Loko claimed the win.

“We’re pleased that we got a point but we came here to win so we can’t be entirely happy with this result,” said head coach Jussi Tapola. “We had our chances, especially in overtime when we got on that power play and had one opportunity where we really should have scored. Overall we started the game well but Lokomotiv got stronger as it went on.”

There were bright spots as well, of course. Kunlun’s strong start took the game was noted by the coach and brought its reward in the 13th minute. Lokomotiv gave up possession in its own zone and Justin Fontaine raced away with the puck before putting away a beautifully-placed wrist shot to open the scoring. Even before that, Red Star might have led. The home team was perhaps disoriented when defenseman Jakub Nakladal took a puck to the face early on; Taylor Beck tested Salak with an ingenious shot through his legs from close range and Veli-Matti Savinainen got on the end of a lovely combination only to be denied by the experienced Czech.

Lokomotiv steadily grew into the game, though, and tied the scores late in the opening frame on a goal from Swedish defenseman Staffan Kronwall. His scoring is usually of the ‘crash-and-bash’ school of thumps from the blue line; tonight he liberated his inner forward with a well-taken finish after coasting behind the net. For our goalie, Alexander Lazushin, a high shot to the near post was unexpected; it was perhaps the only blemish on another solid performance from him between the piping.

Lazushin was at his best in the second period when the home team threatened to take complete control of the game. Lokomotiv topped the shot count 10-2, Red Star’s offense was stifled almost totally. But the scoreline did not change, thanks to Lazushin’s composure in our net. The final period was far more evenly-fought and late in the game Kunlun might even have won it. Wojtek Wolski went close on the wraparound and Olli Palola almost conjured another late spectacular. At the other end, Lazushin had one more big save to deny Daniil Apalkov and take us into overtime.

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