Result of the day
Avtomobilist - Lada 1-2.We are already a week into “crazy January”, in which the teams face the daunting prospect of playing up to ten times in a month. It is the same ordeal for every club, of course, but for Lada, Traktor, Sibir and Avtomobilist the first month of the year will decide who will make it to the play-offs. Traktor of Chelyabinsk, having won the ‘life and death’ encounter against Lada, suddenly surrender a two-goal advantage and lose to Neftekhimik, whereas Lada, in contrast, are working wonders.

The first goal of this game in Togliatti was indeed a curiosity. Stanislav Zhmakin simply chucked the puck into the zone, but goaltender Alexei Semenov somehow contrived to direct it into his own net. To Lada’s credit, they did not lose heart but instead pressured their opponents into submission. Avtomobilist, incidentally, despite their superb spell at the end of last year, seem to be running out of steam and look unlikely to force their way into the play-offs. They simply do not have enough experience, and at times like this experience is all but the key factor.

Unreliable Traktor
For the fifth time this championship, Traktor have lost having scored the first two goals. No other team in the League surrenders such an advantage as often as the men from the Urals. Neftekhimik, in contrast, are now one of only three clubs to have achieved such a hard-fought win on three occasions, joining HC MVD and Lokomotiv.

Best place for Ak Bars
Despite losing in overtime, Ak Bars nevertheless climbed to ninth place overall in the table, their highest position of the season. The lowest point so far for Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s team was after five games, when they slid down to 23rd place.

Early starters
Avtomobilist have opened the scoring in 16 matches this season, and today was the seventh time they have scored first but were still beaten. Only four clubs have a worse record for holding onto the early advantage, and one of these, Lada, for the fourth time this season, earned a victory after conceding the first goal.

Off the mark
This Wednesday, two players finally opened their scoring accounts for the season. Lada’s Alexander Naurov last celebrated a goal at this level way back in season 2004-05, while playing for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. His teammate, Semen Valuysky, has already played in 17 games this season but only grabbed his first goal today.

Yakutsenya’s best season
Neftekhimik attacker Maxim Yakutsenya (pictured), with his assist for the second goal against Traktor, has become his club’s second highest point scorer. His account now stands at 12 goals and 15 assists. This is by far Maxim’s best season for points scored, beating his personal best of 22 gathered during the season before last.

Figures of the day
41 shots at the Ak Bars goal by Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

7 shots on goal from Lada attacker Alexander Chernikov.

29 minutes 14 seconds spent in play by Ak Bars defenseman Ilya Nikulin.

81% of 24 face-offs won by Avtomobilist attacker Igor Magogin.

Key players
Alexei Semenov (Lada). After conceding a very strange opening goal he produced a flawless performance, saving 35 shots.

Tomas Starosta (Neftekhimik). Helped set up one goal, and finished the match with an efficiency rating of +2.

Gennady Razin (Neftekhimik). Finished the match with a rating of +2.

Semen Valuysky (Lada). The 18-year-old forward struck his first goal at the top level.

Fedor Fedorov (Metallurg Magnitogorsk). Scored a goal and made an assist.

Denis Khlystov (Metallurg Magnitogorsk). Brought his team victory in overtime in the match against Ak Bars.

Quotes
“In the first period I noticed the fatigue in our players,” - Avtomobilist head coach Marek Sykora.

“I won’t name those who made the mistakes,” - Traktor head coach Andrei Nazarov.

“The Chelyabinsk arena needs to buy some clocks. When we went out for the warm-up, the scoreboard showed 36 minutes left till the start of the match, but by our watches we went out at the right time. Then out came the ice truck and they asked us to back in the changing room. But I repeat: on our watches was the correct time. And here there is no clock in the changing room, and there is the wrong time on the scoreboard; so I suggest you club together and buy some clocks for the arena,” - Neftekhimik head coach Vladimir Krikunov.

“Yemelin had both his lips cut by a skate, but no matter, they stitched it up and he played on,” - Ak Bars head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov.

Alexei Shevchenko, khl.ru

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