Beaten in the last minute

7 February 2019

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A late, late goal sent Red Star spinning to defeat in Vladivostok despite leading the game going into the third period. Our last game before the international break had a disappointing finish, and the loss leaves the team eight points adrift of eighth-placed Traktor with just five games to play this season.

This was a game against an in-form opponent. Admiral had gone two games without allowing a goal and was undefeated in three outings as it fought to keep its own unlikely playoff prospects alive. But Red Star was ready to fight and the first period was evenly matched, with just one goal separating the teams. Unfortunately, that goal went to the opposition: Alexander Ugolnikov’s powerful strike rewarded Admiral’s fast start; Red Star refused to buckle and could have tied the game in the opening stanza but went to the intermission down 0-1.

Wednesday’s line-up had a slightly different look. This time Curt Fraser named seven defensemen to the roster, with Mikael Tam returning to action for only his third KHL outing of the season. The Chinese-eligible blue-liner had eight minutes of ice time as the coaching staff took the opportunity to assess the depth within the KRS system before making its plans for future. The extras number on defense offered some support during that opening frame and in the second stanza the offense took over.

After a season in which second periods have been something of a bete noire for Red Star, this was one of our best middle sessions of the campaign. Two unanswered goals turned the game around and lifted us into a winning position by the 40-minute mark. And the supremacy was a fair reflection of the balance of play: Red Star outshot Admiral 15-8 and was by far the more active offense over the course of the game.

It took some time to turn that pressure into goals, but in the 34th minute Veli Matti-Savinainen grabbed his ninth of the season with a short-handed effort. Luke Lockhart intercepted the puck in his own end and passed blue line to blue line to send the Finn beyond the Admiral defense. Our forward shown great composure to go top shelf and score on Anton Krasotkin for the first time in 150 minutes of action.

It wasn’t long before Kunlun was on the power play and Justin Fontaine took the chance to put our guys in front. Ondrej Vitasek’s point shot was deflected into the path of Tomas Mertl and the Czech forward deceived the defense with a pass across the front of the net to Fontaine, who applied the finish as Krasotkin struggled to get back into position. With a couple of minutes left in the second period, the Dragons could see a way to victory.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last. Admiral secured a power play goal of its own to tie the scores – Yury Petrov needed just eight seconds to find the net after Tobias Viklund took a minor – and the third period continued with few chances at either end. Red Star, arguably, still had more to offer going forward but was caught out in the closing seconds when Alexander Konnov potted the winner with 85 seconds left.

The season now pauses for the international action. Red Star’s next game is on Feb. 14 away to Barys Astana.

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Kunlun Red Star