Lazushin stars in memorable win

25 February 2024

Kunlun Red Star 3 SKA St. Petersburg 2

Sometimes, it’s good to save the best until the last. And today’s win over SKA was probably our best game of the season. Even though the odds were stacked against us, the Dragons produced a fantastic performance to end SKA’s hopes of winning the Continental Cup.

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Logic suggested this should never have happened. SKA had everything to play for, knowing that only victory today could secure the top spot in the regular season standings ahead of Dynamo Moscow. We also forfeited home advantage, playing this game in front of 21,000 SKA fans in the team’s super-sized new arena. Plus, the history books show that victories over this opponent are vanishingly rare.

But nobody told our guys about logic. This was a magnificent performance from start to finish. Goalie Alexander Lazushin will take the plaudits after a fantastic game. He stopped 48 shots and had even a partisan home crowd singing his name as he protected our lead in the third period. But it would be wrong to infer that this was merely a backs-to-the-wall defensive effort. Going forward, the Dragons posed a persistent threat and fully merited the win.

In a goalless first period, we created good chances. The best of them came in the final minute when a three-on-one rush invited Tyler Wong to score. However, a world-class sliding interception from Alexander Nikishin snuffed out the chance and robbed us of a certain goal.

Disappointing? A bit. But the guys responded perfectly with a goal straight after the restart. Colin Campbell needed just 14 seconds to put us in front and take his personal record to five points from five games. There was more to come: a great chance for Brandon McMillan denied by Nikita Serebryakov’s outstretched pad, a couple of good looks for Spencer Foo, and, late in the frame, a close-range finish from Devin Brosseau to make it 2-0. Devin moves to 23 goals for the season, improving his club record haul with one game left.

At the other end, Lazushin showed his mettle once again with a good save to deny Stepan Falkovsky when the Belarusian defenseman got on the rush.

After a fast start to the second period, Red Star was even quicker off the mark in the third. It was a case of Foo x Two as Parker set up Spencer to make it 3-0 on 40:13 and leave SKA chasing the game.

However, the home team produced a proper chase. Lazushin continued to excel, stopping shot after shot until Borna Rendulic finally got one past him in the 48th minute. Whether it was snuffing out Marat Khairullin’s one-on-one chance or mopping up an unlikely clearance-turned-shot from his opposite number Serebryakov, our goalie produced a memorable performance.

SKA, desperate for some kind of breakthrough, gambled. Its first and only power play of the game forced head coach Roman Rotenberg to replace Serebryakov with a skater. The six-on-four advantage saw Nikishin get it back to 3-2 and there was more pressure to come. Lazushin continued to deny, and his stop to deny Sergei Tolchinsky in the 57th minute was as valuable as any goal in this game.

The final stages brought more SKA pressure and more Red Star resistance. When the hooter sounded, it confirmed one of the best results our club has achieved and sparked celebrations from Petersburg to Beijing, and Mytishchi to Moscow, where Dynamo learned that it had been handed the Continental Cup.

There was more good news from Sochi, where the Leopards’ defeat against Neftekhimik guarantees ninth place in the Conference for KRS. That’s our highest finish since our debut season. Tomorrow, we face Vityaz in our final game of a campaign that has brought plenty of progress.

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