Our final home game of the old year was decided by the contribution of some of the Dragons’ new faces. Saturday’s game against Traktor was a roller-coaster affair, but first KRS goals for Vojtech Mozik and Anton Lazarev steered our guys to victory. Lazarev, who potted the game winner in the last minute, was a fitting hero: at the start of the season, as a Traktor player, his only other goal of the campaign landed in our net during a 1-3 loss in Chelyabinsk.
Today, Lazarev lined up with Slava Leshchenko and Gleb Shashkov and proved to be the architect of our opening goal. Collecting the puck on the right, Anton cleverly drew two defensemen towards him before slipping a pass into the space beyond them where Leshchenko was lurking to open the scoring. Just 23 seconds later, the Dragons doubled the lead thanks to Parker Foo. He replaced big brother Spencer on today’s roster and tucked away a Sergei Monakhov pass to claim his second goal of the season. In keeping with the day’s general theme, the other assist came from newly-signed defenseman Alexander Yevseyenkov and was his first point since joining the club.
At this stage, it all looked like plain sailing. Ethan Werek hit the post and late in the first period Leshchenko went close to extending the lead. A thoroughly satisfying 20 minutes of hockey had Red Star in total control.
However, the second period saw Traktor hit back. There was a warning sign midway through the session when the visitor had a goal whistled off, then came two classy moments of individual skill to tie the game. First Lukas Sedlak reduced the arrears with a short-handed goal – the 11th time Traktor’s PK has found the net this season. He took a pass from Tomas Hyka, got away from the attentions of two Red Star defensemen and beat Jeremy Smith. Then, just before the intermission, Vitaly Kravtsov tied the game with a brilliantly executed goal. The young forward, on loan from the New York Rangers, produced a neat drag-back, sending the puck between his skates, before lifting it over Smith’s shoulder from a tight angle.
Early in the third, Traktor demonstrated that it could do the more routine work as well, moving in front for the first time in the game when Lawrence Pilut fired home from the blue line. A day that began with such promise was starting to spiral away from our team and the next task was to dig in and kill a penalty while also coping with the demoralizing impact of seeing the lead evaporate into nothing. But the guys regrouped, kept Traktor away from goal and steadily got back into the game. A power play of our own offered a path to recovery and Mozik duly obliged by thumping home his first goal for the Dragons midway through the frame. With the scores tied at three, both teams knew that any error was likely to prove fatal and it was a question of which player would have the courage to produce the game-winning play.
The answer was Lazarev. At the start of the season, he helped give Traktor a win over Red Star. Today, in the fourth meeting between the clubs this season, he changed sides to fire home the winning goal with 44 seconds left to play and deliver an unwelcome Christmas greeting to his erstwhile colleagues. For his new comrades in the Dragons’ Den, though, victory moves us further from the foot of the Eastern Conference table – the gap to Neftekhimik is now five points – and keeps Alexei Kovalev and his team looking optimistically up the standings as the year draws to a close.