Kunlun Red Star 0 Barys Nur-Sultan 3
After two roller-coaster games against Salavat Yulaev and SKA, it was perhaps inevitable that the Dragons might struggle to maintain the same level of pulsating action in our penultimate game of the season. Today, a slow start to the game left Red Star struggling in the first period and that setback turned out to be more than the guys could overcome against a Barys team looking to move into the playoffs in winning form.
There was an early flashpoint when Barys forward Dmitry Shevchenko barrelled into Jeremy Smith behind the net, knocking our goalie to the ice. Jake Chelios stepped up to put our opponent straight and both players ended up in the penalty box. Unfortunately, 4-on-4 hockey suited Barys better: the visitor took the lead through captain Darren Dietz and never relinquished its advantage. Anton Sagadayev made it 2-0 in the eighth minute and the puck was in our net once again in the 13th, only to be crossed off due to a hand pass.
It all added up to a tough first period and the signs for the second were not promising either. Red Star began on the PK and within seven seconds the Dragons had to defend a 3-on-5 situation after Slava Leshchenko followed Casey Wellman into the box. However, our penalty kill did a fine job of limiting Barys and there were relatively few alarms despite the visitor’s pressure.
And steadily, our guys grew into the game. Midway through the session we had a 5-on-3 advantage of our own and thought we had a way back into the game when Tyler Wong put the puck into the net. However, instead of celebration there was frustration: during the play, the officials spotted a foul and Wong was handed a two-minute slashing penalty instead of his eighth goal of the season.
Back in the game, Wong tested Henrik Karlsson in the Barys net when he got a solo break and there was a palpable sense of grievance that the second period ended without at least one goal for Red Star to enjoy. The same pattern of play continued into the third with Karlsson denying Wong yet again and Sean Collins hitting the post. At the other end, the sucker punch followed: a penalty on Ryan Sproul and a power play goal for Nikita Mikhailis saw Barys move 3-0 ahead and put the game beyond reach with eight minutes to play.
In the closing stages, Karlsson continued to put the work in on the way to his third shut-out of the season. A neat glove save denied Wellman on the rush, then Ethan Werek fired wide when well placed.
It all added up to a frustrating evening – but there’s still one last hurrah to come. Saturday sees the Dragons welcome Dynamo Moscow for our final game of the season. Let’s hope we can end a difficult campaign on a winning note.