Evgeny Popikhin (pictured) became the fourth coach to lose his job since the start of the season. Torpedo's loss to Avangard on Friday proved to be his last game at the helm of the team from Nizhny Novgorod. He was replaced by Sergei Mikhalev, the club announced Sunday. In 2002-03 Mikhalev has guided Severstal to second place in Russian championship, and few years later he won the title with Salavat Yulayev in 2007-08.
Here is the wrap-up of the weekend.
Metallurg Magnitogorsk 5
Ak Bars Kazan 3
Magnitka recovered from a poor first period to win Sunday’s clash of the titans – but only after Ak Bars gave them a scare in the opening stages. Dmitry Kazionov gave the Kazan side the lead on 02:13 after Dmitry Obukhov led a quick counter attack. The sides traded goals in the seventh minute, Vladislav Bulyin equalizing on 06:24 before Janne Pesonen reinstated Ak Bars’ advantage on 06:45. And on 18:45 the ever-menacing Danis Zaripov was on the mark yet again to make it 3-1.
By contrast, the second period was all about the hosts, who roared back into the match, pummeling 15 shots – 13 on target – at the visitors’ goal. Three of them counted: Sergei Fedorov on 22:20, completing the move of the game after Toni Koivisto danced through the defense, Denis Platonov on 29:45 and Nikolai Pronin to put Metallurg ahead on 39:35. Fedor Fedorov wrapped up the scoring on 43:49 to keep Magnitka on top of the championship table.
SKA St. Petersburg 3
Salavat Yulayev Ufa 5
Oleg Tverdovsky settled Saturday's east-west summit clash in Salavat Yulayev's favor, with two goals and an assist in a fiery encounter in St. Petersburg. With the game tied at 2-2 Tverdovsky set up Alexander Radulov to put Salavat Yulayev ahead for the first time on 37:37. Then, in the final period, Alexander Korolyuk levelled only for Tverdovsky to take control. On 50:53 he converted a pass from Patrick Thoresen, who grabbed a hat-trick on Thursday night, to make it 4-3. Finally, with SKA trying to force the tempo, Radulov and Thoresen combined to set him up for the fifth goal on 58:53, prompting home keeper Robert Esche to pick up a 25 minute penalty as his frustrations boiled over.
Earlier Alexei Yashin's two goals had twice given SKA the lead, but Alexander Perezhogin (19:20) and Andrei Taratukhin (33:30) cancelled out those efforts. A high penalty count for both sides also saw Thoresen and SKA's Alexei Petrov twice sinbinned for fighting with one another.
Severstal Cherepovets 2
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3
Loko came from behind to record a narrow victory against their Tarasov Division rivals in the final clash of the weekend. But last year’s runners-up had to battle back from 2-0 down after a strong start from their hosts, who went ahead on 09:46 through Josef Straka. Imports combined again on 19:38 as a short-handed Loko couldn’t stop Ladislav Nagy setting up Marek Zagrapan to make it 2-0.
After the break Loko got back on the rails, with Czech striker Josef Vasicek steaming on to the scoresheet. He pulled one back on 22:10, assisted by Vitaly Anikeyenko and Sergei Konkov. Anikeyenko was involved again as Gennady Churilov equalized on 22:52 and a shell-shocked Severstal conceded the decisive goal to Vasicek on 37:24, assisted by Konkov. The hosts pushed hard for an equalizer in the final session, but good defense from Loko and a missed chance for Sergei Soin saw the points go to Yaroslavl.
Dynamo Moscow 1
Metallurg Novokuznetsk 0
Mattias Weinhandl's 11th goal of the season finally ended Metallurg's dogged resistance and secured a fifth successive victory for Dynamo on Saturday. But while goaltender Vitaly Yeremeyev was able to celebrate his 350th appearance for the Blue-and-Whites with the team's first shut-out since February 23, and Weinhandl took his place among the campaign's leading goalscorers as well as staying out on front among the KHL's point-scorers (24), there was little other excitement at Luzhniki. Weinhandl's powerplay strike came on 46:40, firing home a Karel Rachunek pass. Rahunek featured in the game's other major flashpoint, as he and Novokuznetz's Alexander Shinkar picked up 14 penalty minutes for a brawl after the first siren. Metallurg suffered their third blank game of the campaign.
HK MVD Moscow Region 3
Amur Khabarovsk 1
HK MVD maintained their place at the top of the Tarasov Division on Saturday with a 3-1 home win over Amur Khabarovsk. The Moscow Region side went in front through Maxim Velikov, only to see Amur equalize thanks to Alexander Yunkov, who scored twice at Dynamo earlier in the week. But second-period strikes from Denis Kokarev (27:27) and Matt Ellison (39:46) were enough to give MVD the points.
Dinamo Minsk 1
Sibir Novosibirsk 4
For the second game in a row Dinamo couldn't turn an early lead into a win. Jeff Platt's powerplay effort on 4:14 lasted barely three minutes before Vladimir Tarasenko set up Dmitry Tarasov to square the scoreline on 7:40. In the second period Sibir hit the piping, before the same partnership combined to make it 2-1 on 34:58, and almost immediately a second powerplay goal, this time for Mikhail Chernov from Alexei Akifyev made it 3-1 on 36:43. Akifyev completed the scoring on 49:12, assisted by Leos Cermak.
Avangard Omsk 1
Vityaz Chekhov 2
Vladimir Karpov was the hero for Vityaz as they ended a long losing streak with a come-from-behind win at in-form Avangard on Sunday. When Yegor Averin put the hosts in front on 10:26 it looked like more of the same for both teams, but the visitors leveled on 18:37 when Andrei Kolesnikov set up Karpov’s opener. Early in the second period Karpov struck again, this time aided by Yaroslav Tulyakov and Vadim Berdnikov on 24:28, and the Tarasov Division strugglers held on to get their first win in eight attempts and first ever success in Omsk.
Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 2
Lada Togliatti 1
Sunday saw new-boys Avto pick up only their third win of the season, with all the goals coming in the final session. Andrei Subbotin put the hosts in front with a powerplay goal on 46:14, only for Sergei Sevostyanov to equalize on 53:45, with assists from two of Thursday’s scorers Erik Veyssmann and Roman Kukumberg. But when Lada were reduced to three players, Avto got the winner through Vitaly Sitnikov on 55:26.
Traktor Chelyabinsk 4
Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 6
Sunday’s highest-scoring game caught fire in the closing stages as the visitors came from behind to win. When Andrei Nikolishin put Traktor 2-1 up on 30:06, there was little evidence of the goal flurry to come. But Maxim Pestushko leveled on 32:26, then two goals in a minute for Andrei Ivanov (37:31) and Alexander Bumagin (38:30) put the away team in control. Andrei Popov pulled one back on 42:15 before Gennady Razin’s powerplay effort for Neftekhimik on 53:26 inspired another burst of net-busting. Pavel Boychenko (54:48) made it 4-5, but hopes of a dramatic recovery were finally quashed on 56:53 by Nikolai Belov. Earlier Pierre Dagenais had given Traktor the lead in the first period, only for Igor Polygalov to equalize.
There is a real battle for this title. Martin Gerber (Atlant) was leading after his fight with Vityaz' Darsy Verot. But now Robert Esche (SKA) goes ahead: big penalty in the game against Salavat brought his tally to 39 minutes this season. He is the only goaltender with two big penalties (10 and 25 minutes) under his belt. Gerber has 25 PIM, Tyler Moss (Amur) and Denis Franskevich (Avtomobilist) are on 12 each.
Hudler finally stopped
Dynamo Moscow’s Jiri Hudler failed to score after racking up points in his previous seven games. Now Alexander Radulov (Salavat Yulayev) is in the spotlight. Having scored points in last seven games he is on 3+9 during this period.
Two goals mean nothing
For the second time this season Ak Bars lost after going two goals ahead. On the other hand, Metallurg Magnitogorsk won for the first time after going two down.
Five times this season Severstal were 2-0 up. Having won on four previous occasions, they were handed first defeat by Lokomotiv. Such a poor start is not too unusual for Yaroslavl outfit: five times they have found themselves 2-0 down, but managed to win on three occasions.
SKA defenseman Sergei Zubov spent 28 min 40 sec on ice.
Dinamo Minsk forward Jeff Platt had 7 shots on Sibir’s goal. In total his team had 36 shots on goal in that game.
SKA forward Petr Cajanek won 80 per cent of his 15 face-offs.
Salavat’s Oleg Tverdovsky scored three points (2+1) including the game winning goal, and was at a +3.
Avtomobilist defenseman Sergei Stupin spent 28 min 11 sec on ice.
Avtomobilist goalie Ivan Lisutin saved 30 shots.
Josef Straka (Severstal) had 6 shots on goal.
Lokomotiv had 36 shots on Severstal goal.
Avangard forward Eric Perrin won 82.4 per cent of his 17 face-offs.
«I agree it was not that SKA lost to Salavat Yulayev. I lost to [Vyacheslav] Bykov.» SKA head coach Barry Smith.
«I want to apologize to fans for such a dismal match.» Avangard head coach Igor Nikitin.
Andy Potts, Alexei Shevchenko