21 February 2023
SKA St. Petersburg 7 Kunlun Red Star 2
This game – with KHL regular season winner hosting a team with no playoffs hopes – was not about points and placing, this was about preparation. SKA is shaping for another Gagarin Cup bid while Dragons keep in mind April’s IIHF World championships in Division 1B. And for Greg Ireland’s team it was another important step on its way to Tallinn. Obviously, learning a lesson from such a classy opponent is a valuable part of the process.
The scoreline suggests a rout, but this game was closer than the numbers might suggest. Certainly, much of the difference lay in SKA’s ability to convert its chances. In particular, the home team was able to grab quick pairs of goals. And ultimately, those added up to a one-sided final score.
Dmitrij Jaskin turned out to be the tormentor in chief. The Omsk-born Czech international had three points, moving himself clear in the KHL scoring race for the season. His opener, in the 17th minute, was a real gut punch after a first period in which the Dragons did a more than decent job. From the opening moments, when Yipper forced a save out of home goalie Dmitry Nikolayev, to a solid two minutes of offensive pressure in front of the SKA net, there was plenty of good stuff from our guys. SKA fired in the shots, but struggled to get inside our D and really challenge until Jaskin pounced on a rare look from close range. Just 13 seconds later, the home team doubled the lead and, despite so much good work, we went to the intermission down 0-2.
The second period followed a similar pattern. Kunlun created chances, but couldn’t take them. Defensively, we gave SKA plenty to think about with our PK unit at its best to subdue one of the most vibrant offenses in the league. However, a breakaway goal extended SKA’s lead and triggered a cascade of three tallies in 71 seconds. In the midst of all that, Sun Zehao replaced starting goalie Matt Jurusik.
That’s not to say that Sunny was failing to make an impact. He pulled off a solid save to deny a Nikita Gusev one-timer and, once again, didn’t let anyone down. At the same time, Red Star got on the scoreboard at last when Devin Brosseau potted. The same player was close to adding a second but the post intervened on SKA’s behalf.
Early in the third, Red Star got flamboyant. Zhang Zesen attempted a lacrosse goal, then Yipper fired a great chance narrowly wide. But then came Jaskin to make it 6-1 and go to 59 points for the season.
Our offense got a little more reward when Ryan Sproul fired home a power play goal from the hash marks to make it 2-6. Unfortunately, the final word went to our host when Gusev converted a penalty shot. Chances continued to come for our guys, even though the game was obviously out of reach, but the game finished 2-7.
We still have two games left in our season, travelling to Neftekhimik and Sochi this week. So, again, it’s about securing a bit of pride in our final action and leaving a legacy to build upon next season.