Kunlun climbs to second place after a thriller in Chelyabinsk
Source: Club Press-Office
Traktor Chelyabinsk 4 Kunlun Red Star 5 SO
It’s not always about making a great start. Sometimes, lost causes can be retrieved. Which was just as well after a forgettable first period in Chelyabinsk.
Nothing went right in those first 20 minutes. Traktor dominated all over the ice, and could even had added to the three unanswered goals it scored on Magnus Hellberg and Tomi Karhunen in the first stanza.
But the middle session was very different. Whatever happened during the intermission clearly had the right effect, and our guys came out and produced some of their best hockey of the season. Andreas Thuresson released Alexei Ponikarovsky for the first goal in the 22nd minute, then we saw two glimpses of the kind of partnership Cory Kane and Wojtek Wolski are seeking to form this season. Wolski began the play that ended with Kane parting the Traktor defense to make it 2-3, then, three minutes later, he stole the puck on his own blue line and sent Kane away for the tying goal. From 0-3 to 3-3 in barely six minutes. That was the kind of game we wanted to see.
It wasn’t plain sailing from then on, though. Traktor, with the jeers of the home crowd ringing around the arena, wobbled but did not fall. Penalty trouble hampered Red Star, power play handed the momentum to the host and Traktor managed to snatch the lead right before the second intermission. Ivan Vishnevsky found the target from the blue line; Kunlun had to go again if it was to save the game.
Perhaps even a week ago, the rawness of the roster would have made that a challenge too far. But back-to-back victories in Ufa and Yekaterinburg have added belief to the many qualities our players possess. Winning becomes a habit, defeat feels remote, and that spirit inspired our guys in the final session. The equalizer took some time to arrive, but a power play in the 53rd minute did the job. Brandon DeFazio got the goal, turning in the deep slot and launching a shot through traffic in front of Pavel Francouz to make it 4-4.
That meant overtime, for the first time this season, and then a shoot-out. Like the game, the extras began with Traktor on top: the home side had the better of the additional five minutes, but failed to score on Karhunen, then gained the early advantage in the shoot-out when Yury Petrov potted his first attempt.
After that, though, it was all Kunlun. Karhunen won the next three duels, while Geoff Kinrade, Cory Kane and Jesse Blacker all beat Francouz and Demchenko to secure a third straight victory. Moreover, and this is something worth noting despite the early stage of the season, our team is up to second in the Eastern Conference. That’s notable not just because of the lofty position on the table, but also because so far Red Star has yet to play a home game – uniquely in this season’s KHL. With one more road game to come, at Lada on Tuesday, the time for the grand homecoming is drawing near … and our guys are doing everything to make Saturday’s game against Jokerit a real top-of-the-table affair.