As Russia celebrates Christmas according to the Orthodox calendar, there was a festive bonus for CSKA, SKA and Metallurg Magnitogorsk. All three teams confirmed their playoff spots with wins today. Not everyone entered the holiday spirit, though, with Scrooge-like defense in Nizhnekamsk seeing Neftekhimik edge Traktor by a solitary goal
Magnitka became the first team in the East to reach 100 points for the season after blanking out its closest rival in the Kharlamov Division.
For the second game running, Kazan hosted one of Ak Bars’ oldest rivals, and for the second time in three days, Ak Bars lost out.
Sergei Mozyakin, not for the first time, was the key man. He broke the deadlock in the 28th minute and had an assist on Jan Kovar’s goal a couple of minutes later, taking his tally to 33+31=64 points for the season. But for head coach Ilya Vorobyov, it wasn’t the forward’s offensive contribution that really caught the eye. “At times today even Sergei Mozyakin was blocking shots, and that says a lot,” he told journalists after the game.
Metallurg goalie Vasily Koshechkin made 24 saves, while his defense blocked a further 15 attempts from Ak Bars.
Avangard reinforced its position as the Chernyshev Division leader with a hard-fought win at home to Lokomotiv, which remains fourth in the Western Conference.
The first period was a lively affair, with both sides hitting the front before going into the first intermission tied at 2-2. Nikolai Lemtyugov was Avangard’s key player, opening the scoring in the ninth minute and tying the game less than a minute before the hooter.
But this heavyweight clash was settled by Ilya Mikheyev’s power play goal on 25 minutes. Yegor Martynov’s shot from the point was parried, enabling Ilya Zubov and Maxim Pestushko to play tic-tac-toe around the slot before Mikheyev finished off the move and win the game.
The visitor made it three wins in a row thanks to a third-period flourish, while Metallurg suffered its 8th defeat in a row – all of them on home ice – and its fourth failure to score in that time.
For two periods the game was goalless, although Dynamo built up a solid advantage in shots on target. But the deadlock was broken early in the third when Juusso Hietanen scored on the power play. Ansel Galimov, a former Metallurg player, scored Dynamo’s second and less than a minute later Lukas Kaspar’s good work behind the net set up Martins Karsums to make it 3-0.
Metallurg’s task is unlikely to get much easier in its coming games: the next two outings see the Siberians travel to SKA and CSKA. Dynamo, once in danger of getting dragged into a battle to reach the playoffs, now looks comfortable in fifth place in the Western Conference.
Two teams seeking points to bolster their playoff ambitions met in Siberia, with the host edging a narrow verdict to claim a vital win.
Konstantin Okulov was Sibir’s star, getting the opening goal in the 13th minute and returning to grab the game-winner in the 55th.
In between, though, Vityaz came close to picking up the point that would have lifted it back into the top eight in the Western Conference. Roman Horak and Alexander Pankov gave the visitor a first-period lead and even after Zach Boychuk tied the scores midway through the game, Sibir struggled to find a way past Igor Saprykin in the visitor’s net.
But Okulov finally solved the goalie late on to seal a win that puts Sibir just a point shy of the top eight in the East.
League leader CSKA maintained its position on top of the pile with a solid win in Belarus, limiting the home team to just 17 shots on goal.
Even so, it took a pair of quickfire goals in the 30th minute to set the Army Men on the path to victory, with Kirill Petrov and Ivan Telegin cancelling out Alexander Pavlovich’s 12-minute opener for Dinamo. Petrov struck on the power play; Dinamo, still shell-shocked, allowed Telegin to score just 25 seconds later, irrevocably shifting the momentum of the game.
Once ahead, CSKA was able to slow down the home offense in a game where clear-cut chances were often at a premium. Maxim Mamin added a third for the visitor with 10 minutes left to wrap up the win.
After four defeats on the spin – an unwanted KHL record for the club – SKA found the perfect riposte with an emphatic victory in Latvia.
Evgeny Ketov led the way with two goals and an assist as Dinamo’s resistance crumbled in the second half of the game. SKA had dominated from the off – the first period ended with the visitor 11-2 up on shots – but could not find a way past Jakub Sedlacek until a 27th-minute power play goal from Slava Voynov opened the scoring. Ketov quickly added a second and the game was up for the host.
The outcome was beyond doubt, but there was still time for Ketov to chip in with a second goal and an assist on Viktor Tikhonov’s late marker, while Nikolajs Jelisejevs got a consolation strike for Dinamo.
Neftekhimik had goalie Andrei Kareyev to thank for a narrow victory over Traktor that lifts the team’s playoff hopes. He made 26 saves to deny the visitor, ensuring that Richard Gynge’s 38th-minute goal was enough to claim all three points. Neftekhimik moves up to ninth, level on points with eight-placed Kunlun and part of a group of five teams separated by just three points. As an indicator of how much the team has improved in recent weeks, the previous meeting with Traktor ended in a 0-6 defeat in November.
Jokerit’s playoff hopes took a hit with an unexpected heavy loss at home to struggling Severstal. The Finns failed to get to grips with the game and were undone by Yury Trubachyov in the third period. He picked up two assists in three minutes as Maxim Trunyov and Alexander Yevseyenkov put the Steelmen 3-1 ahead. Dmitry Kagarlitsky added a fourth soon after.
Sergei Demagin’s first goal of the season turned out to be the game-winner as Lada beat Salavat Yulaev 4-2. The 30-year-old has missed significant chunks of the season, but was in the right place to grab Lada’s third goal in the 26th minute of today’s game. Team-mate Alexei Mastryukov also got his first of the season, in only his second appearance, while the more prolific pair of Stanislav Bocharov and Anton Shenfeld also found the net. Alexander Loginov and Tomas Mertl replied for the visitor, but Salavat was always chasing this game.