Battling comeback falls just short

9 December 2021

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 6 Kunlun Red Star 4

A tough assignment at the league leader brought out Red Star’s resilient side. As in our overtime loss at Traktor on Monday, the guys showed plenty of heart and determination against a powerful and skilled opponent. Tonight, sadly, there was no tangible reward for the team’s efforts but once again there was much to be proud of after giving the KHL pacesetter plenty to think about.

Metallurg, as expected, had the better of the first period. However, the table-topper faced enough danger on the counterattack to have to keep it honest: Brandon Yip put a dangerous redirect on a Ryan Sproul shot that flashed just wide, then the Foo brothers combined in similar fashion to force a save from Juho Olkinuora. It took a home power play to finally break the deadlock, with Metallurg’s Nikolai Goldobin opening the scoring midway through the session. That helped Magnitka assume greater control of the game and, after the intermission, Nikita Korostelyov scored for the third game in a row.

From 0-2 down, the Dragons stirred. A power play midway through the second period offered a way back into the game. Juho Olkinuora denied Spencer Foo, but Red Star kept the play alive and when the chance came to Brandon Yip our captain made no mistake. Power play goals are becoming a regular thing for Yipper – that’s two in two games for him now, and he assisted on Tyler Wong’s PP effort against Sibir immediately prior to that.

That was just the start. Four minutes later, good pressing in the neutral zone forced a turnover. The puck went straight to Cliff Pu and he needed no second invitation, advancing to the top of the left-hand circle and using Mikhail Grigoriev to conceal a shot that surprised Juho Olkinuora in the home net.

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Now the balance of play had shifted and the Dragons had every hope of building on that momentum when Denis Zernov was called for interference at the end of second period, giving us a two-minute power play at the start of the third. Sadly, Metallurg came out after the intermission and killed that penalty before taking advantage of a chance for its own power play. There didn’t seem to be much in a tussle between Alex Riche and Artyom Minulin – it looked like six of one and half-a-dozen of the other – but our man took a roughing minor and the PP brought a goal for Maxim Karpov to restore the home lead.

Back in the game, Riche set about putting the record straight. And he was presented with the perfect opportunity to do so when Yegor Yakovlev took the puck behind his own net and was chased down by Cliff Pu. The home defenseman’s clearance went straight to Riche, who was quick to step up and deposit a wrister beyond Olkinuora.

But that was as good as it would get for the Dragons. It didn’t take long for Philippe Maillet to restore Metallurg’s lead and Yegor Korobkin quickly stretched it to 5-3. Late in the game, Karpov potted his second but the final word went to Luke Lockhart, who grabbed a consolation goal with 18 seconds left. It gave the final scoreline a slightly less lopsided look, and better reflected just how hard Red Star pushed the league leader on its own ice.

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