Home loss ends playoff hopes

13 February 2024

Kunlun Red Star 2 CSKA Moscow 4

In a game that Kunlun had to win to remain in the playoff race, CSKA proved too strong in the third period. As it happens, even a victory tonight would not have changed the overall picture: Dinamo Minsk won at Vityaz to secure the eighth and final post-season spot.


After more than a week’s rest, the Dragons returned to action with a home game against CSKA. Although our illustrious visitor is the most titled club in world hockey, Red Star was going after a fourth successive home victory against the Muscovites. But they would have to overcome Sergei Fedorov’s coaching wiles: after a spell absent through illness he was back behind the CSKA bench.

Our last game brought a 4-2 victory at Vityaz, and Viktors Ignatjevs kept the same team, apart from Jeremy Smith returning in goal. Smitty had a busy time in the first period, facing 17 shots, but early in the game he produced a trademark reflex save to deny Maxim Mamin on the power play.

The Dragons killed Cory Kane’s early penalty, but fell behind after getting their own power play in the 12th minute. Mamin could not score with a man advantage, but did the job on the PK.

Despite that setback, it wasn’t long before the home team was level. Brandon McMillan found the net, wiring the rebound to the short side after a Jake Chelios blast came back off the boards. And, in a good first-period performance, Jason Fram was close to putting us up before the intermission, only to be denied by Dmitry Gamzin in the visitor’s net.

The second period produced plenty of scoring chances for KRS. There was an anxious moment early on when Andrei Svetlakov hit the post, but after that our guys posed most of the questions. McMillan fired wide when he had a great chance for a second power play goal, and as Yaroslav Dyblenko continued to watch on, the Dragons had further great opportunities for Spencer Foo and Tyler Graovac to put us up.

On defense, meanwhile, Turner Ottenbreit reached a landmark with his 100th hit since joining the Dragons this season. Today was his 58th appearance in the KHL, and it also brought him a 22nd penalty of the season after tangling with Vladislav Provolnev late in the middle frame. Ottenbreit has 5 (1+4) points when he gets a chance to look beyond defensive duties.

Unfortunately, after that good second period, Turner and his colleagues found themselves pushed onto the back foot in the third. CSKA started strongly, pushing us back from the off. Before the session had reached its midway point, the visitor was up 10-0 on the shot count. More importantly, we allowed a second goal early in the action and never really recovered. There was some brave defense to keep the game alive, but when Mikhail Grigorenko added a power play goal in the 57th minute that felt like the end.

The final minutes brought two more goals, though. Brandon Yip redirected a Ryan Sproul shot to give us hope of saving the game but, just as news came through that Dinamo Minsk had ended our playoff hopes, CSKA killed this one with an empty-net goal.

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