Solitary strike sinks battling Kunlun
Source: Club Press-Office
SIBIR NOVOSIBIRSK 1 KUNLUN RED STAR 0
Kunlun’s trip to Novosibirsk offered a great chance to move ever closer to a playoff place, with victory potentially opening up a 10-point gap over one of our closest rivals in the race for the top eight.
But, of course, the home team also had everything to play for, knowing all too well that failing to secure three points would seriously hamper its chances of reaching post-season.
It was also a clash of two in-form goalies: our Tomi Karhunen arrived in Siberia buoyed by back-to-back shut-outs, while the home team’s Danny Taylor had given up just two goals in his last three outings. The stage was set for a tense battle, one where taking chances would be crucial.
The early stages favored the home team. Sibir launched into the first period like a team that knew its immediate future depended on a good result. Neither side was willing to yield an inch of the ice, but the better chances came to the host. Karhunen had to be alert on several occasions, making big saves to deny Konstantin Okulov and Stepan Sannikov.
After making it to the intermission unscathed, though, Kunlun started to show a little more. A great opportunity early in the second period saw Taylor pull off a terrific save to deny Linus Videll after terrific work from Sean Collins to open up a path to the net, and our guys began taking the game to the host. Then came the sucker punch. A penalty for Collins, a marauding rush from Maxim Shalunov, Joonas Kemppainen hitting the post and Sannikov poaching a scrappy goal on the rebound. Halfway through the game, and Sibir had the vital breakthrough.
Now it was a question of finding a way past Taylor. There was no lack of commitment; on occasion, perhaps, even too much determination as the team’s frustration rose. After Tomas Marcinko became the latest player to test the home goalie, tempers spilled over into a brawl in the 53rd minute. Both teams picked up a pair of minors for roughing but Kunlun’s rhythm was disrupted and some of the edge went out of the game in the closing stages.
In the event, Taylor and Sibir held on – 26 saves frustrated our forwards, and Sannikov’s goal proved enough to claim the win. Our advantage over ninth-placed Sibir is cut to four points, but with just five games left to play, our playoff destiny is firmly in our own hands. And performances of similar determination in the last two weeks of the season will surely see the team over the line and into its first ever KHL playoff. The team is back in action on Thursday, away to Avangard Omsk.