Andy Potts Andy Potts
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As this game got underway in Finland, back in China the clocks were ticking into the start of the Year of the Ox. And the Spring Festival inspired Kunlun Red Star to its first victory in 10 games with a battling performance that slows Jokerit’s push for a playoff place.

Jokerit Helsinki 4 Kunlun Red Star 5 OT (0-1, 3-2, 1-1, 0-1)

The Dragons lost all their previous visits to the Finnish capital but managed to change all that today in a high-scoring encounter that ebbed and flowed throughout. A good first-period performance saw the visitor turn around with a 1-0 lead thanks to Hunter Shinkaruk’s composed finish after Andrej Sustr sent him clean through on goal. The lead might have been greater had Tyler Wong’s shot not rebounded off the post late in the frame.

However, Jokerit seemed to have taken a decisive lead with three goals in the second period. Midway through, Markus Hannikainen took advantage of a stumble from visiting captain Luke Lockhart to tie the scores, then Niklas Jensen made it 2-1 on a 5-on-3 power play (albeit only a video review confirmed that his shot bounced back off the inside frame of the goal after crossing the line. A shorthanded goal from John Norman extended the lead and left Red Star’s prospects looking dim.

However, it all turned around again late in the second stanza. Ryan Sproul scored on the power play, then Lockhart atoned for his earlier slip to tie the scores after another Sproul effort flashed wide. And the Kunlun captain inspired his team to take the lead at the start of the third, overpowering Viktor Loov and setting up Wong.

That wasn’t enough to settle the outcome: Brian O’Neill, who scored the game winner when these teams met last week in Mytishchi, tied it up in the 48th minute. That took the action into overtime, and Ivan Nikolishin got the decisive goal to kickstart Kunlun’s New Year celebrations. Jokerit gains another point in its playoff bid and is now seven clear of ninth-placed Spartak; Red Star remains at the foot of the Eastern Conference but is level on points with Neftekhimik.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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