24 November 2020
Kunlun Red Star 4 Dinamo Riga 5 OT
The Dragons got their first point since Nov. 1 in a barn-burner of a clash with Dinamo Riga. Sadly, though, a goal late in overtime sent the team sliding to an eighth successive loss, a verdict that was hardly a fair reflection of an entertaining game.
Red Star welcomed a new face onto the team with Vyacheslav Leshchenko making his debut for the Dragons. Wearing #75 he slotted into the second line with Luke Lockhart and Alexei Toropchenko. It’s not the first time the 25-year-old forward played for a team in Mytishchi: as a junior he emerged through Atlant’s system, making his KHL debut for our current arena’s previous tenant. During that time, he was also a team-mate of Viktor Baldayev, now a lynchpin of the Dragons’ defense.
Leshchenko’s debut was not the only change from the team that lost at home to Ak Bars last time out. Baldayev returned to the roster along with defensive colleague Jake Chelios. Jeremy Smith started the game as back-up goalie with Dmitry Shikin continuing between the piping; those roles may well be reversed on Tuesday as Red Star goes back-to-back this week.
Monday’s game, though, was a basement battle. If Dinamo won, it would move level on points with Red Star at the foot of the overall KHL table. The Dragons, meanwhile, were out for revenge after going down 3-5 in Riga and suffering the indignity of two goals from our former player Gleb Zyryanov. Not surprisingly, then, it was a highly motivated home team that started the first period at a high tempo. Ivan Nikolishin was first to show, firing in a testing shot in the first minute. Then Spencer Foo got into the zone and launched a slapshot that was just off target.
Against the run of play, Dinamo got ahead – and once again it was an ex-Dragon doing the damage. Ondrej Vitasek, only recently back in the team after injury, battled away from Tyler Wong and the right-hand boards and exchanged passes with Miks Indrasis before slotting the opening goal past Shikin.
The Dragons deservedly tied the scores in the 17th minute as Chelios marked his return to the team with a second goal of the season. At first it looked like our attack had broken down following a misplaced pass back to the blue line. But Casey Wellman took play back into the danger and Chelios linked up perfectly to score. However, Dinamo hit back almost immediately as Indrasis got his second goal of the season. The Latvian forward seems to enjoy his encounters with us; his first of the campaign came a week ago when we met in Riga.
The second period was one of those sessions when everything went against us. Kunlun did everything right on the ice, implementing the game plan, dominating the play and comprehensively out-shooting Dinamo. Unfortunately, this effort did not get the reward it deserved. At one end, Stanislav Galimov was in terrific form for the visitor, at the other Denis Parshin went behind the net and dropped a backhand pass for Pavel Chernov to add a third.
But there was no panic. The team’s performance was far stronger than the scoreline suggested and that point was emphatically proved at the start of the third. Twice, Red Star got on the power play and twice Hunter Shinkaruk found the Dinamo net to tie us up at 3-3. First, he potted the rebound after Wong’s angled shot from the left was blocked, then he went himself, threading the needle with a wrist shot that flashed into the top corner. This effort put Hunter level with Nikolishin on six goals while 14 points made him a clear leader of the team’s scoring race.
At the other end, Indrasis was eager to continue in his role of Dragon slayer. With five minutes to play, the experienced international potted his second goal of the game, via a deflection, to restore Dinamo’s lead. Dragons, though, are not easily slain; Red Star got a power play soon afterwards, and Wong stuffed home the equalizer after Wellman set up the chance in front of the net.
That took us to overtime, where the first challenge was to kill the remainder of a penalty on Chelios late in the game. This was successfully achieved but, alas, it was not the prelude to a victory. With 11 seconds left, Parshin snatched a winner.