The home team on paper, Kunlun Red Star had won one out of their first three regular season games. In previous game they lost to Dinamo Riga on their home ice.
Red Star won the last match-up against Jokerit in last February, but before that the team hadn’t had a victorious KHL game against the Finnish team since January 2017.
Otto Leskinen made his KHL debut in Jokerit defence in the game against Red Star. The game turned out to be full time battle up and down the ice, ending in a victory for Jokerit with score 6–5.
”It was positive that we got the two points. We need to respect the opponent as well, but we let too many goals against us. We have some work to do, but we are happy about the points”, said Jokerit head coach Lauri Marjamäki after the game for media.
Jokerit started the game with good puck-possession and as they got the puck to the offensive zone, they were able to deliver some shots from the blue line towards Red Star goal. However, Jeremy Smith got to be quite relaxed at his work post.
Red Star got their first chance after a massive puck loss by Jokerit defence, and Cory Kane rushed through to the net. Clinical finish past Jokerit goaltender Janne Juvonen gave Red Star 1–0 lead.
”This wasn’t an easy game for Janne. They scored right from the first chance, and they also capitalized the first two chances in the second period. He played very well the last 30 minutes. We need to defend better in front of him. He is a good goaltender who has played good seasons in SHL”, Marjamäki rooted his netminder.
The China based team got a grip from the game as they got the lead. Jokerit and Teemu Turunen tried to shake that grip off the opponents minds – even a little too literally, when Turunen sweeped goaltender Smith down to the ice behind the net, earning himself a minor penalty. It didn’t take too long after Jokerit got short-handed before the captain Marko Anttila showed character and tied the game with a big effort.
The game shifted from side to another quite a lot during the first 20 minutes and each team got chances controlling the puck.
The second period didn’t get older than 16 seconds, when Jokerit defenceman Philip Holm shot the puck from the blue line towards Red Star goal. A two-layer screen contributed in visitors second goal of the night. Just like captain Anttila in the first period, Red Star’s Greg Squires tied the score with a short-handed goal briefly after the opponent took the lead.
Jokerit forward Kossila who had a stunning start for his first KHL season scored for his team, giving the visitors 3–2 lead early in the period. Red Star asked for trouble, when the first goal-scorer Kane was sent to penalty box. However, the trend of the game continued and when playing in special forces, the short-handed team got the more dangerous chance. This time Juvonen stopped Spencer Foo’s breakaway.
Also getting some power play time came in handy, when Red Star operated their tying goal to 3–3. Ryan Sproul got the puck on the blue line, took a few steps forward and slammed Red Star’s third goal.
As the second period came towards ending, the physical side of the game showed up. There were many battles in the corners and behind goals, when both of the teams tried to first of all prevent the opponent from scoring another goal, but also attempted to rush to the net, when there wasn’t too much space in the open ice.
Jokerit managed to get the lead after one longer shift of pressure. The fourth goal for the Helsinki team came true as the defensive pair moved the puck along the blue line and the Swedishman Holm scored his second goal.
The visitors gained more safety as forward Turunen forced the puck in from the net, when there was only one minute left on the clock with the period. The debutant player Leskinen crossed nicely through the offensive zone earning an assist to his team’s fifth goal.
As Red Star were two goals down in the beginning of the third period, they had to try to push harder and harder, taking a raising amount of risks on the ice. Jokerit kept their game simple and did strike back, when given a chance.
Jokerit mostly tried to get the puck deep into the offensive zone. Iiro Pakarinen and other strong forwards used their strenght and size to control the events on the ice. On a power play Jokerit got, Holm had his shot for hattrick, but Smith was aware on duty and got in front of the puck.
Red Star had their chances to even the score. First line forward Foo scored his second goal of the game just after the team had a million dollar chance, which Jokerit goaltender Juvonen denied. Jokerit got to blow some air out as they got a power play a few minutes before the final buzzer. Pakarinen took a loose puck to his stick and delivered it to the net, from where Markus Hännikäinen wrestled it behind Lazushin.
The home team Red Star in the game played in the city of Mytishchi didn’t want to give up easily. Brandon Yip got his team only one goal behind just before the 60 minutes were full. Juvonen made a few big saves, securing Jokerit the second win of the season.
Jokerit were able to take the points from a game, in which the situaton shifted and both teams were in the controlling position in their times. Holm’s effort in Jokerit defence was outstanding and his vitaly was a remarkable matter in the end result.
”We had some problems with out special teams. We have been together for seven weeks. It’s a new team and we need experiences like this to develop our game. We need to find the right balanc and consistency, now we are going too much up and down”, coach Marjamäki stated.
The season will continue for Jokerit on Saturday, when the team faces the reigning KHL champion Avangard Omsk. Red Star will have their next game on the very same date, when they play against HC Sochi.