Dragons survive Spartak fightback

28 January 2023

Kunlun Red Star 3 Spartak Moscow 2 OT

This game was so good that the Dragons won it twice! Or, more accurately, built a winning position and recovered from a Spartak fightback to secure the points in overtime. It might have been a stressful journey to victory, but this was another performance that embodied the key attributes of a resilient team.

Suspensions continued to affect Greg Ireland’s selection. Brandon Yip sat out the last of his two-game ban and Garet Hunt joined our captain on the KHL’s list of undesirables for this game. There was more rotation among the team, with on-loan Spartak players Dmitry Kostenko and German Tochilkin missing the chance to play against their parent club. Josh Nicholls also sat out, while Alex Riche and Ivan Lisin returned to the line-up. It was Lisin’s first game for the team since December 28. Matt Jurusik got the start in goal.

Jurusik be at the heart of one of the key moments of the game. In the final minute, with the game at 2-2 and the clock telling us that we were, effectively, playing sudden death hockey, Spartak’s Ilya Talaluyev got a shooting chance that looked a certain goal. Or, at least, it looked a certain goal to all but one person in the arena. Happily, that man was our goalie, who produced an outstanding glove save to rob Talaluyev of his tally and deny Spartak a win.

That sent us into overtime. A tripping call on the visitor’s Alexander Khokhlachyov opened the door for our power play and Cliff Pu got the decisive touch when he redirected a Zac Leslie shot past Patrik Rybar to win the game.

Earlier in the evening, Red Star seemed to making comfortable progress towards victory. Although the first period was goalless, the Dragons created the clearer chances. Rybar was tested on a few occasions, and his three stops to deny Pu, Colin Campbell and Devin Brosseau were crucial to keep Spartak in the game at the first intermission.

However, all three of those players would go on to score on the Slovak goalie in the rest of the game. Brosseau opened the scoring in the 25th minute with a goal that owed everything to persistence amid a huge scramble on the Spartak crease. That tally made it four in six games for Devin and he almost added a fifth a few minutes later. However, the second goal went to Campbell, who used his physical presence on the slot to get in position to steer Vince LoVerde’s shot inside the post.

Up 2-0, it was a happy home locker room at the second intermission. However, early in the third Spartak changed everything. Two goals in 80 seconds brought the visitor level. Now Red Star had to halt that momentum and change the course of the closing stages of the game.

Task #1 was to stabilize the game and avoid taking any further damage. Once that was achieved, we could go in search of a winner: a penalty shot late on gave Tomas Jurco a great chance to settle the issue, but his Slovak compatriot Rybar got the better of the duel. Then came Matt’s game-saving stop at the other end before we secured an overtime triumph.

Next up we’re on the road to Minsk, looking to avenge our 1-5 loss to Dinamo on Thursday.

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