Sunday saw two of the KHL’s top teams take to the ice under new management following the departure of their head coaches. Metallurg Magnitogorsk had Ilya Vorobyov behind the bench following Mike Keenan’s move upstairs to an advisory role at the club, while SKA replaced Andrei Nazarov with Sergei Zubov as the two most recent Gagarin Cup winners reacted to a slow start to the campaign.
Both teams began with a win – but both teams had to work hard to claim the points.
Metallurg Magnitogorsk started life without Mike Keenan behind the bench in the high-intensity derby with Traktor – and eventually emerged victorious.
But it was far from easy for Magnitka: missing forwards Jan Kovar and Wojtek Wolski through injury, Metallurg had to claw back a 1-3 deficit before snatching the verdict in overtime.
Traktor weathered a first-period storm to go into the intermission goalless and cashed in on a positional error in defense to take the lead on 20:49. Sergei Mozyakin tied it up on the power play, but Artyom Penkovsky made it 2-1 in the 36th minute and Artyom Borodkin extended the lead with less than 12 minutes to play.
In the closing stages tempers flared. Konstantin Klimontov and Oskar Osala picked up penalties for fighting and when Davydov got a 2+10 for a high hit, Danis Zaripov converted the power play to get Magnitka back in contention. Mozyakin tied the scores for the second time, again on the power play and this time with the goalie benched for a sixth skater. With 101 seconds left to play, Ilya Vorobyov’s team had escaped defeat.
It took less than a minute to win it in the extras. Zaripov got the decisive goal after 53 seconds, smashing home a one-timer off Mozyakin’s backhand pass to the face-off spot.
In Petersburg, Sergei Zubov might have hoped for a straightforward introduction to the job against the bottom club. But while his hopes of turning his role from ‘acting’ head coach to a permanent position got an immediate lift thanks to Ilya Kovalchuk’s power play goal in the third minute, Lada proved to be an obdurate opponent.
The Motormen kept pace with SKA for much of the game, matching the home team almost chance for chance and tying the scores through Anton Shenfeld in the second period.
Anton Burdasov scored early in the third to inch SKA back in front, but the pressure was still on. Lada outshot the Army Men in the closing stages but could not find a way past Mikko Koskinen to force overtime.
Perfect 10 for Loko
There’s no stopping Lokomotiv at the top of the KHL table. A hard-won victory over second-placed Jokerit made it 10 wins on the spin for the Railwaymen, with a strong third-period display cementing a come-from-behind success.
The Finns dominated the early exchanges, though, outshooting Loko 14-4 in the first period without finding a way past in-form goalie Alexei Murygin. The second stanza was almost a mirror image in terms of chances, but a penalty disrupted Loko’s dominance and Pekka Jormakka opened the scoring in the 36th minute.
It only took a couple of minutes for Loko to level, though: Daniil Apalkov finding the net thanks to his quick reactions to a rebound in front of goal.
The third period saw Sergei Konkov put Lokomotiv in front before Yegor Averin maintained his fine individual scoring run with an empty-net goal to take his tally to seven goals and four assists in nine games.
Spartak cashes in on Ak Bars implosion
Ak Bars’ win at SKA might have brought down the curtain on Andrei Nazarov’s brief spell behind the bench in St. Petersburg, but the Kazan team has not had things easy this season.
Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s men went into Sunday’s game outside of the play-off spots and the trip to Spartak showed once again what is good and bad about Ak Bars’ play right now.
The good side emerged early: Oscar Moller opened the scoring in the first period and Mikhail Glukhov doubled that lead in the 36th minute. But then the team hit the self-destruct button.
Alexander Mereskin pulled a goal back almost immediately before Gleb Glimenko tied the scores on the power play early in the third. Finally, roared on by a big Luzhniki crowd, Spartak snatched victory, aided by an Ak Bars error. With 14 seconds left the visitor was penalized for having too many men on the ice; six seconds later Konstantin Glazachev was celebrating the game winner.