KUNLUN RED STAR 5 BARYS ASTANA 1
Beijing, it’s been too long. Taking the Red Star roadshow to Shanghai for more than three months was a special experience for everyone connected with the club, but at the end of every journey there’s something special about returning home. And when that homecoming brings a 5-1 win – our biggest of the season so far – then it starts to feel like Christmas is coming early.
It wasn’t just the margin of the victory, nor even the clinical finishing that saw us put an impressive 29.4% of our shots on goal into the Barys net. This was a big game for Kunlun’s playoff prospects, with the team from Kazakhstan pushing hard to force its way into the top eight. Defeat today would not have dropped us below the line, but it would have moved Barys level on points with us in an ever-tighter race for a playoff spot. Instead, a comfortable win offers us the luxury of a six-point cushion over ninth place.
It was a big day for Tomas Marcinko, who scored twice. The Slovak forward had only found the net once previously, in a 2-3 defeat at home to Ak Bars on September 22, but delivered two predatory strikes today. His first, assisted by Igor Velichkin, came early in the second period to make it 2-0. The visiting defense got into a muddle behind the net, and the puck popped out for Marcinko to swoop in and unleash a one-timer from close range to beat Henrik Karlsson. Later he grabbed a short-handed goal to make it 4-0, this time owing much to Alexei Ponikarovsky’s willingness to turn Brett Bellemore’s wild clearance into a defense-splitting pass and lead a rush that ended with another emphatic Marcinko one-timer.
Linus Videll and Tommi Taimi also had a big role to play. Taimi had two assists, helping on Joonas Jarvinen’s opener and Sean Collins’ goal late in the second period. Videll had a helper on that one and wrapped up the scoring into an empty net, sealing a big home win for Kunlun. Nigel Dawes managed a power play goal midway through the third, but it had no impact on the outcome of the game.
What did count was an offense that took its chances when they came. Neither team put up any impressive stats about shots on goal – it finished 19-17 in Barys’ favor on that count – but Kunlun certainly ensured that those attempts made a difference. In the first period, Jarvinen’s goal was one of just three efforts on Karlsson’s net; in the third, Marcinko and Videll had two scoring shots from four. Only in the middle stanza, once a weak spot but now becoming a strength for Red Star, did the home team look as dominant as the scoreline suggests. Out-shooting Barys 11-5, we added goals from Marcinko and Collins to take the game away from the opposition.
The rest of the game, our team knuckled down, did the hard work and made it difficult for Barys to get a good look at Tomi Karhunen’s net. Solid defense, clinical offense … it’s a winning formula in most sports, and it was certainly too much for Barys.
With the KHL program curtailed this week to allow for the Channel 1 Cup international tournament in Moscow, Red Star has some time to settle into its Beijing home once again. The next game is on Saturday, and it’s another visit from a team desperately trying to catch us in the playoff race. Avtomobilist will provide the opposition as Kunlun looks to maintain its perfect record in the Chinese capital.