Jokerit took all three points from Shanghai as Kunlun Red Star went down to a defeat in its first home game of the season.
Saturday’s only game saw KHL action come to China for the first time this season – but Kunlun Red Star was unable to celebrate its homecoming with a victory.
Admittedly, the Beijing team didn’t get all the way home after seven road games to begin the campaign; just like last season, the fall brings other demands on Red Star’s home in the Chinese capital and this game was played in Shanghai. But, buoyed by Kunlun’s bright start to the 2017-18 campaign, spectator numbers – and especially spectator noise – was up on what we saw in the coastal megacity last year, offering more evidence that the game is making progress in the People’s Republic.
On the ice, though, Kunlun was undone by a combination of Ryan Zapolski’s goaltending and two goals from Antti Pihlstrom. Zapolski kept Jokerit in the game when Red Star was in the ascendant early on, locking up the game until his team grabbed the lead midway through the encounter. That opening goal came on the power play when Niklas Jensen found some space in the deep slot and put a wrister into the top corner.
Then Marko Anttila made it 2-0 early in the third period. Pavel Vorobei’s first ever career goal in the KHL gave Red Star hope, but Pihlstrom extinguished that with a deflected shot from a tight angle to make it 3-1 and an empty-netter to seal the deal.