Kunlun Red Star 3 Spartak Moscow 5
Despite a battling performance in front of a noisy crowd in Mytishchi, the Dragons suffered another narrow defeat at the hands of Spartak Moscow.
A recurring, and frustrating theme of this season has been the sight of former KRS players scoring on us. Sure, it’s a nice endorsement of our ability to identify and develop talented players, but it’s fair to say it’s more enjoyable when our old friends score on other teams. On Wednesday, Martin Bakos became the latest to invoke the ex-factor, putting Spartak ahead with a power play goal in the sixth minute.
Sometimes, though, adversity makes us stronger. Despite going behind, the Dragons took the game to Spartak and the visitor found itself running into penalty trouble. A pair of quick calls sent Anatoly Nikontsev and Nikita Sokolov to the box and Kunlun extracted maximum profit from the situation. With one second left on the 5-on-3 advantage, Ryan Sproul fired home the equalizer from the top of the circle after working with Ethan Werek to open up space for a shot. Within a minute, Ivan Nikolishin’s concealed cross-ice pass found Slava Leshchenko in almost the same spot and the ex-Spartak man’s one-timer put us 2-1 up on his former team-mates. It turns out the ex-factor can work both ways.
The second period saw big chances at either end, with Sergei Shirokov hitting the frame of Jeremy Smith’s goal before the Dragons generated a steady string of opportunities to increase their lead. However, it was the Red-and-Whites who found the net, with fit-again Jori Lehtera’s feed setting up defenseman Artyom Serikov for a rare goal.
Almost immediately, Red Star had a great chance to regain the lead. Wong chased down the visiting defense and forced a loose clearance into empty space in the offensive zone. Werek got to the puck first and lashed in a venomous shot that flew just wide while Wong, for his pains, was pushed to the floor – with perhaps a hint of interference from defenseman Andrei Zubarev – and had to be helped off the ice. Happily, he was able to return after the intermission.
But that third period began in calamitous fashion for the Dragons, with two Spartak goals in just six seconds. Lukas Radil got the first before Nikontsev made it 4-2. Suddenly, we had it all to do, all over again. But, without delay, the guys got back to their task and Sean Collins sent Hunter Shinkaruk clean through to beat Hudacek and make it 3-4 with 15 minutes to play. This time, though, there would be no fairytale finish. Instead, an empty netter from Sergei Shirokov secured the win for Spartak three seconds before the hooter.
Off the ice, today’s attendance of 1,108 deserves a mention. In a season where, for long periods, we were forced to play behind closed doors, it was a huge lift to everyone to welcome one of our biggest crowds of the campaign. Both teams were loudly represented around the arena, generating the liveliest atmosphere we’ve enjoyed at a game in Mytishchi so far. And it is perhaps no coincidence that the same atmosphere helped inspire an entertaining, competitive and high-scoring game for everyone to enjoy.