Not much changed for Jokerit in its lineup after the season's opener in Kazan, with Janne Juvonen replacing Anders Lindback between the piping. Neftekhimik is now surprisingly on the top of the Eastern Conference's standings after winning its first two games as they downed Kunlun Red Star in its home opener. The Wolves could count on a sparse, yet loud crowd that pushed the team ahead.
"Our game wasn't in balance at all and this wasn't a good 60 minutes for us," Marjamaki said after the game. "I think the desire is there but we are chasing the game and not in control. There's plenty of room for improvement. Penalty kill was good tonight."
In the first period, Jokerit started the game showing more class, but Neftekhimik was pushed by a very loud home crowd and replied with some fast counter-attacks that may cause some problems to the Finn side should the Wolves had more quality in their offensive department. The teams played a fast-paced, open game and midway through the opening frame the home crowd jumped on its feet when a vacant puck allegedly crossed Juvonen's crease, but it didn't go in. However, in that same play, the refs whistled a holding penalty against John Norman. Hard-working Neftekhimik tried assaulting the opposition net, but couldn't solve Jokerit's box. With the teams back on even strength, Jokerit showed its class and forced Mikhail Sidorov to a penalty on newcomer Kalle Kossila for the Jokers' first man advantage of the night. And not unexpectedly, it took less than 50 seconds for the Finn side to find the first of the night when Jordan Schroeder picked up his rebound and sent the puck to the left. Brian O'Neill was ready to fire it and sent it home over a sliding Tuohimaa as he opened his account for the 2021-2022 campaign.
After the goal, Jokerit lowered the tempo and controlled the play, leaving little room for Neftekhimik as the Finnish side was up by one at the first hooter. "We tried to improve our finishing after the first game in Kazan," Kossila said in the first intermission. "However, it's just our second game, and we still have a long season ahead."
However, the second period started differently. Jokerit tried to control the pace, but Neftekhimik gradually gained room. It was a tiny bit over two minutes in the middle frame when the Wolves created traffic in front of Juvonen, and Danila Popov opened his account in the KHL with a fast snapshot from fifteen feet. Less than a minute later, the loud home crowd was pumped again when Bulat Shafigullin almost sent Neftekhimik forward after deflecting a slapper by Ronald Knot. The momentum clearly shifted in favor of the home team. The situation was even more complicated for the guests when David Sklenicka was sent out in the 12th minute. Jokerit killed the penalty, but let their guard down, and Ansel Galimov found Vladislav Shutov in front of the crease for his second career goal and a deserved 2-1. But Jokerit's reaction was immediate. After a couple of fast breaks led by Iiro Pakarinen, a blue-line shot by Philip Holm was deflected right in front of Tuohimaa by Pakarinen himself, and the game was tied again with seven minutes to go in the middle stanza.
Jokerit kept on pushing and almost made it 3-2, with O'Neill failing to convert a close-range chance. Not far from the second hooter, Kossila was sent to the sin bin, followed by O'Neill, hooking an opposition player after a neutral-zone face-off. However, the Jokers killed both penalties as the teams were still tied at two after the second period.
In the third period, the teams were more careful as the first mistake could cost the game. However, Lukas Klok was assigned a roughing minor penalty and Jokerit could have another man advantage, but the Wolves had no problems in containing the Jokers' attacks. The sides exchanged a couple of chances, with Jokerit having the most dangerous when Tuohimaa stopped in style a close-range attempt by Hannes Bjorninen. Emotions run high in the third stanza's dying minutes, with several penalties whistled on both sides. But with the team back in even strength, Neftekhimik gained the momentum again. After a solid save by Juvonen on Ansel Galimov, Knot potted the go-ahead goal from five feet after a rebound on a shot by Pavel Poryadin. However, Jokerit didn't surrender, and with less than two minutes to go, had a tremendous opportunity to tie things up with Kirill Vorobyov caught on tripping Marko Anttila. Lauri Marjamaki called a time-out and benched Juvonen for a sixth skater in. Jokerit assaulted Tuohimaa's crease, but Neftekhimik's box play stood on its head and even found the 4-2 goal that sealed the deal with Yegor Popov - yet another player at his first KHL goal. "We are satisfied with the win," Leontyev said after the game. "Several of our guys scored their first goal in the KHL, and they played an excellent game. And naturally, I want to congratulate our fans."
"I think it was a good game by us today, we played great defense, and if you score four goals, that's enough for a win," Tuohimaa added. "It was a bit of a special game for me; I know over half of their team. It was fun to play against them."
"We played only five pre-season games, and now these two road games", Marjamaki said. "The game is brutal but honest, and the results don't lie. On Monday, we get to play at home in front of our fans against Traktor. The journey continues; there's still 54 games left to play."
Jokerit will now take on Traktor on Monday, and a loss may be a problem for Lauri Marjamaki. On the other hand, Traktor amassed a powerful roster and won its opening game of the season, and they will undoubtedly want to gain another two points. The puck will drop at 18:30, local time.