Red-letter days and highlight reel goals – playoff hockey in China

Source: Club Press-Office

26.02.2017

KUNLUN RED STAR 2 METALLURG MAGNITOGORSK 3
(Metallurg leads the series 3-0)

Playoff hockey came to China for the first time, and Kunlun delivered everything to mark the grand occasion. A big crowd – 7,200 came to the arena – saw a fantastic goal from Linus Videll – possibly the best individual goal from a Kunlun player in the club’s history. History was made by our opponent as well, with Sergei Mozyakin claiming his 1,000th career point to inflict another narrow loss on Red Star. But, with Game 4 of the series coming on Tuesday, the battle is not yet finished and there’s still another chance to experience the thrill of playoff hockey here in Beijing.

So what does playoff hockey mean? For Videll, clearly, it’s an inspiration. There didn’t seem all that much on for our Swedish forward as the team looked to unpick Magnitka’s penalty kill. Tommi Taimi held the puck behind his own net to allow fresh forwards to come onto the ice, and Videll took over possession deep in his own zone. And started skating. And skating. Beat one opponent, then another. Exploded through the gap left by Oskar Osala and Evgeny Biryukov, then forced the puck past Vasily Koshechkin into the visitor’s net. It would have been a spectacular goal in an All-Star exhibition game; in a playoff meeting where every player is fully committed to doing the dirty work of defense it was nothing short of incredible. A highlight reel goal on a red-letter day for Chinese hockey.

Individual glory aside, it also gave us a sight of getting back into this series. In previous games, we’d always been playing catch-up after giving up the opening score. Now it was Metallurg’s turn to try to force the pace. Red Star looked to its defense for stability in a bid to neutralize the devastating offensive power that Magnitka brings, and that tactic worked until deep into the second period. Frustrations were growing among the visitors until finally Denis Platonov tied the scores in the 35th minute.

Then came Mozyakin’s big moment, coming via some great stick handling to get around Tomi Karhunen and make it 2-1 to Metallurg. Playoff hockey means big players delivering big plays, and few do that better than Magnitogorsk’s talismanic captain. Not only did he become the first player to reach 1,000th career points in Russian top-flight hockey, he is almost 200 ahead of the next player on the list, Maxim Sushinsky. That’s the kind of hockey legend that is coming to China following the establishment of Kunlun Red Star, and that’s why our club is playing such a vital role in developing the game here.

It’s not just about admiring the opposition, though. Our team had a job to do, and went out for the third period determined to do it. The balance of play tipped back in our favor, the shot count was firmly on our side. Unfortunately, before Kunlun could find a way past Koshechkin, a power play goal for Zaripov extended the visitor’s lead.

The battle continued. Almost immediately, Tuukka Mantyla wriggled his way into a dangerous position behind the net and popped out a pass for Vadim Pereskokov. His shot was deflected away, but Oleg Yashin swept the rebound into the net to breathe new life into the Dragons’ hopes. In the end, a third goal proved just out of reach. Yet again, a brave performance stretched the defending champion to the limit but fell agonizingly short of the reward it deserved.
Game 4 in the series takes place in Beijing on Tuesday, with Kunlun needing a victory to ensure that the season continues.