Jokerit is still playing catch-up in the West after so many postponements early in the season left the Finns in a lower position than their results might deserve. Today, though, victory over Salavat Yulaev moved Lauri Marjamaki’s team up to sixth in the table and gave a perfect boost ahead of a five-game road trip.
On arrival in Helsinki, Salavat Yulaev encountered problems. Preliminary COVID testing at the airport uncovered several positive tests and threw this game into doubt. In the event, the teams were able to play – but the visitor named just 18 players (16 skaters, two goalies) and only five defensemen. Philip Larsen, Mikhail Naumenkov, Evgeny Biryukov, Alexei Semyonov, Vladislav Kartayev and Ilya Baranov were all absent from the team that won in Yekaterinburg in the previous game.
In the face of adversity, Salavat Yulaev made a bright start. Perhaps the tactics were to try and build a lead early, with fresh legs, and hope that they could hold on as fatigue took its toll on a short-benched roster. But the fates had a different story in mind. Ufa’s early pressure was not rewarded and once Jokerit got itself into the game, the home team took the lead in freakish circumstances. Iiro Pakarinen was credited with the opening goal in the 14th minute, but only after his shot cleared the crossbar, bounced back off the glass and hit visiting goalie Daniil Tarasov before dropping into the net.
Salavat Yulaev responded quickly and Evgeny Lisovets tied the game before the first intermission, while John Norman hit the piping at the other end as the teams continued to trade chances. And that was very much the pattern of the second period: fast-paced hockey, opportunities at both ends but, ultimately, no goals. Both Tarasov and his opposite number Janis Kalnins did well to neutralize the efforts of both sets of forwards.
For a time, it seemed that the third period would bring more of the same. Kalnins pulled off the save of the game to deny Teemu Hartikainen but the chances kept coming for both team and shortly afterwards Jokerit got in front. As Salavat Yulaev began to tire, Jesse Joensuu restored the home lead from the slot. The visitor tried to find a way back into the game, despite having to play three-line hockey, but Jokerit held on and sealed the verdict thanks to Marko Anttila’s empty-net goal.