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Jokerit were able to end their streak of losses on Thursday as they defeated Sibir at Hartwall Arena. The venue stayed the same, when SKA came to give the Helsinki team a challenge. The match-up was the first between these two teams this season.

Jokerit had their long winning-streak, which turned into a negative slide later. The beginning of the season has been very mixed for the home team of the night. SKA had won four of their latest five games and they won Dynamo Moscow in their most recent game. Finnish forward Joonas Kemppainen scored two goals in that event.

The two teams competing in Helsinki on Friday night were the top teams in the Western Conference in the league. With a win Jokerit had a chance to grow their lead to four points, and on the other hand SKA had a shot to take the pole position into their hands.

Jokerit and SKA gave a show that made the 10 101 spectators gasp and shout in the stands of Hartwall Arena. David Sklenicka scored the winning goal in overtime. The goal was his first of the season.

”The starting point wasn’t so fair, as we played yesterday and SKA got to come to the game rested. We took too many penalties in the first period and it mixed our rhythm. Neither the second period was too good. We passed and received passes poorly. It felt like we were losing our energy in the game. The third period was without a doubt our best”, concluded Jokerit head coach Lauri Marjamäki after the game.

Jokerit started well

Nicklas Jensen crossed to SKA goal in the very first moments of the game. As almost every player on the ice stopped playing before the whistle, the Danisman was able to push through and score the first goal of the game behind Lars Johansson.

The visitors didn’t get in any kind of shock, when they had to start chasing the score. Linden Vey was especially active in the offensive zone in the first period. SKA’s power play shrunk as they played with too many players on the ice while on man-advantage.

As the first period went on, both teams got their offensive game going. However the breaks and penalties made things more complicated. The power play also gave SKA some chances as Andrei Kuzmenko was close to get the puck past Anders Lindbäck. The Swedish goaltender also performed a juicy glove save on Nikita Gusev’s shot.

The pace was very high from time to time and John Norman was able to use his speed in order to get a scoring chance. The forward just barely missed the net. All in all, the home team showed their capability in handling the puck in the offensive zone and winning the loose pucks on the rebounds.

Despite the tight defence that Jokerit put up while playing short-handed in the end of the first period, SKA were able to tie the score. The first goal of the visitors was scored by the experienced defenceman Mat Robinson.

Skilled teams battled hard

Anton Burdasov and Kuzmenko had a two against one attack right in the first shifts of the second period, but Henri Ikonen was able to interrupt the forwards work so that the pass from one SKA player to another was a bit out of target.

Jokerit scored their second goal, when they were able to turn SKA’s attack over. Brian O’Neill skated through the neutral zone and found Teemu Turunen with his pass. However, the joy for the home team was only momentary, as Jokerit defence opened up and Kemppainen was ready in front of the net – result was tied once again.

Philip Holm got a little bit of an easy penalty in the neutral zone, which gave SKA an opportunity to put up a lead. The visitors had their special forces up for a while, but Robinson was also sent to the penalty box – making the strenghts even again. Hannes Björninen was released to a breakaway, but Yuri Pautov stopped him. The crowd was booing loudly to the referees wanting them to give SKA defenceman a penalty. Afterall, a minor penalty was given to the visitors in the very next shift. Holm capitalized for the Helsinki team on two-man advantage.

”We need to play more disciplined with the top teams. I also need to be more calm in some situations. The special teams are always a big part in the game. Both penalty-kills and power plays give a momentum”, Holm stated.

As the period got towards its end, SKA got some pressure at Lindbäck’s work post. The good period of time also ended well for the visitors as Igor Ozhiganov got to cross to the center of the offensive zone and shoot a powerful wrister right to the net. The intermission started and saved Jokerit from another setback.

Up and down they went

Jokerit were forced to play short-handed right at the beginning of the third period as Holm took his third minor penalty of the game. The most dangerous chance opened to Jokerit captain Marko Anttila, who skated away from the SKA defence and almost defeated Johansson with a heavy wrist shot.

For a while both teams tried to get deep into the opponent’s zone by dumping the puck in and skating intensively after it. Mostly the defences were ready to take the attacks and no goals were seen in the first minutes of the period.

Jokerit got a good momentum going after they received a power play, but Johansson couldn’t be passed. The goaltender stopped for example Iiro Pakarinen, who rushed twice aggressively to the net. The pace got very high and both netminders had to stay constantly alert, so that even the surpricing shots wouldn’t get into the goal line.

Even though the game was tied in the last minutes of the regular time, neither of the teams started to play passively. After each attack the teams had a true job to make it to proper defensive form. As Jokerit got to realise in a dramatic way, if the defence wasn’t completely ready, the opponent would strike. Kuzmenko, who had played well all night, sailed to the net and lifted the puck to the net behind Lindbäck.

World class game

Jokerit tried to get the game back to even with six players on the ice. On the very last minute Jordan Schroeder found an opening and put the puck into the net, bringing the game decision to overtime. The pace didn’t get any slower. After a few very high-speed minuted Sklenicka released the crowd from the excitement with his game-winning goal.

”The opponent’s fourth goal was a pity as we were close of scoring the winning goal ourselves. We showed tough character and competitiveness. All in all, we were this much better tonight”, Marjamäki said.

”This was a good advertisement for the KHL and the fans for sure. We played three games in four days and had about 20 000 spectators in total. I believe, that everybody who was here today, will return to the games”, the head coach added.

The teams will compete again on Tuesday next week, when Jokerit will travel to Saint Petersburg.

”They’re a skilled team with a lot of good players. They’re good on the puck and they want to keep it to themselves. We just need to stay close to them and take them out of space”, knew Holm as Jokerit prepares to take on SKA again in a few days.

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Jokerit (Helsinki) Jokerit (Helsinki)
SKA (Saint Petersburg) SKA (Saint Petersburg)
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