Many KHL teams are looking forward to the break for Eurotour action, but leaders SKA St. Petersburg must wish the games would keep on coming. Sunday’s 3-2 win at home to Metallurg Magnitogorsk put SKA five points clear at the top of the table - and Milos Riha’s men have played fewer games than most rivals. Maxim Rybin, Petr Prucha and Denis Denisov got the home goals, and left Magnitka with five defeats from six and eager to take 10 days to regroup before rejoining battle.
Salavat Yulaev Ufa might also be forgiven for anticipating the interruption with enthusiasm as acting head coach Vener Safin saw his team shot down 4-2 at home to Barys Astana. That snapped a three-game winning streak for the defending champion after Lukas Kaspar struck twice in between goals for Kevin Dallman and Dustin Boyd. Alexander Radulov managed 1+1 for the hosts, but it seems there will be some serious soul-searching required in Bashkortostan during the international break. For Barys, meanwhile, life after the departure of head coach Andrei Khomutov is looking brighter - the Kazakhs have won five on the spin.
The battle of Minsk
The clash between Dinamo Minsk and Vityaz Chekhov ended in ugly scenes after the hosts grabbed a last-gasp 3-2 win. Vityaz, already renowned for a tough-guy image, racked up another 207 penalty minutes as tempers flared after Jaroslav Obsut’s winner on 59:16. In the final 45 seconds five players were ejected for fighting and the team’s coach Andrei Nazarov also hauled from the bench after getting into a fight with the home supporters seven seconds before the end of the game. Nazarov later told reporters he had been hit on the head; accounts from the arena claimed that riot police were sent onto the visitors’ bench to restore some kind of order.
Biryukov on top
Goaltender Mikhail Biryukov is back in Russia’s squad, and celebrated with three shoot-out saves to give his Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk colleagues a win over Traktor Chelyabinsk. One of his victims was Konstantin Panov, who had scored twice in regulation time, including an equalizer on 59:38 to force a 4-4 tie. But it was Igor Skorokhodov who had the final say, adding the decisive penalty shot to a goal and an assist as Traktor lost ground on SKA at the top of the table.
Around the league
Vadim Shipachyov has been one of the stars of the opening rounds of this season, and the Severstal Cherepovets forward celebrated his international call-up with two goals in a 4-1 win at Dinamo Riga. His equalizer on 33:38 transformed a game which the Latvians had been edging early on.
In Moscow Region, Atlant’s acting head coach Janne Nilsson boosted his chances of landing the job full-time with a 3-2 win over Avangard Omsk. The visitors saw the league’s top goalscorer Roman Cervenka on the mark again, but could not claw back Eduard Lewandowski’s game winner on 40:23.
Maxim Spiridonov got his first goal for Ak Bars following his recent move from Magnitogorsk to Kazan, and it proved decisive in a hard-fought 4-3 win over struggling Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg.
Vaclav Nedorost and Roman Lyuduchin both scored twice, but it was Spartak’s Mikhail Yunkov who had the decisive say as Spartak won 3-2 at Lev Poprad. Nedorost’s pair of equalizers for the hosts counted for nothing in the end as Yunkov got the winner late in the second period.