It looked like a home banker – but the Dragons had not read the script. A hugely impressive performance in Moscow saw Red Star give CSKA an almighty battle before falling in overtime.
Alexei Kovalev made a few changes ahead of the game. Dmitry Shikin returned in goal, David Bondra made way for Casey Wellman and Trevor Murphy sat out as Gleb Shashkov made his debut for the team after his recent move from Spartak’s system. In the Army camp, Nikita Soshnikov made his first appearance for CSKA following his high-profile switch from Salavat Yulaev.
And Soshnikov was the unwitting catalyst for the Dragons’ opening goal. The forward was called for cross-checking, giving Red Star its first power play of the game, and the guys duly went up the ice and scored. Ryan Sproul found the net, smashing home a one-timer from the right-hand channel after Ethan Werek played the puck back from the home goal line.
The goal might have come as a surprise to many, given CSKA’s dominant form this season, but it was not undeserved. The home team had fair warning of our offensive capabilities earlier in the game when Casey Wellman redirected a shot into Lars Johansson’s pads with the home defense stretched out of position. Indeed, Red Star out shot the Red Army in the first period, thanks to a combination of attacking enterprise and diligent defense; CSKA spent more time on the attack, but our hard-working D kept blocking shots and frustrating the home forwards. And when Maxim Mamin did get himself beyond our back line, Shikin came up big as the last line of defense and the forward had nothing to aim at as he lifted his shot harmlessly over the net.
A satisfying first period was followed by a goal at the start of the second. Before the game, CSKA took a moment to remember Vsevolod Bobrov, one of the legends of Soviet hockey and a multiple champion in Red and Blue. Our own Slava Leshchenko clearly knows the great man’s work and produced a fitting tribute as he took Sproul’s pass behind Johansson’s net to score on the wraparound in a manner that Bobrov himself would surely recognize.
At the other end, Mamin was twice denied when clean through on Shikin. First, he found our goalie’s blocker then, on the odd man rush, a glove save heightened the forward’s frustration. Shoot left, shoot right, shoot high … the puck still would not go into our net. Then the teams played almost six minutes of unbroken hockey, with CSKA probing for weaknesses in our defense and repeatedly coming up empty. For the Dragons, it could hardly be better: the clock kept ticking down, and CSKA was finding it hard to generate shooting chances, never mind the goals it so urgently needed.
Eventually, perhaps inevitably, CSKA’s pressure paid off. Team captain Sergei Andronov finally beat Shikin and give the home team a way back into the game at the start of the third period. Then came a power play goal from Bogdan Kiselevich, firing home from the blue line to tie the scores with 12 to play.
Our lead might have gone, but our story was not over. A crowd scene in front of Johansson’s net ended with Alexander Popov taking a hooking minor and we had two minutes to press our host back into its zone. Even without regaining the lead, we were able to regain a toehold in the game and the power play undoubtedly helped us to hold on for overtime. Blocking 20 shots over the course of 60 minutes was another big factor in our guys’ resilience here – this was a courageous team performance from everyone involved as we resisted a potent home offense and claimed a valuable point for our efforts. Unfortunately, there was nothing more. In overtime, Soshnikov showed why CSKA wanted to bring him from Ufa, circling through our zone and beating Shikin to give the home team a harder win than it could have expected before the game.