Kirill Kaprizov brought his stellar form home from the World Juniors, bagging four points As Salavat Yulaev recovered to beat Spartak. Vityaz claimed a vital win in Beijing and Torpedo spoiled Traktor’s anniversary celebrations to remain unbeaten in 2017.
Two first period goals from Alexei Makeyev were enough to give Vityaz a valuable victory in Beijing and lift Valery Belov’s team back into the top eight.
Makeyev struck late in the opening stanza to give the visitor a commanding lead against a team that is in the thick of a similarly tight playoff battle in the Eastern Conference.
Knowing that a victory would lift Kunlun to the relative security of sixth place, the home team rallied in the second period. Leading scorer Chad Rau got his 17th of the season to halve the deficit and Igor Saprykin faced a busier time in the away net.
The goalie, standing in for the injured Harri Sateri, was up to the task though, and when he denied the in-form Martin Bakos in the final stanza, Kunlun’s chances were over. Vityaz moves into a playoff spot in the West, Kunlun remains in eighth in the West.
Neither team came into this game in strong form, but Salavat could at least point to the return of boy wonder Kirill Kaprizov as a cause for optimism.
The youngster starred in the recent World Junior Championships, finishing as the tournament’s leading scorer to help Russia win a bronze medal. He is now strongly linked with a move to the NHL, and is reportedly in talks with Minnesota at present.
For now, though, he’s a key man in Ufa, and delivered a timely reminder of his talents to his home fans. Salavat was under pressure, a goal down after 27 seconds after Ryan Stoa – a former line-mate of Kaprizov at Metallurg Novokuznetsk – got a quick opener. Things got worse: Denis Bodrov took a major penalty, and Stoa fed Dmitry Kalinin to convert the power play. 2-0 Spartak inside 10 minutes.
It was all change in the middle stanza though. Tomas Mertl got Salavat on the scoreboard, then Kaprizov scored twice to put his team in front. All three goals were assisted by Linus Omark. Then Russia’s bright new star turned provider, getting an assist on Alexander Loginov’s power play goal late in the second and setting up Denis Kulyash’s empty-net marker in the last minute. The Kulyash strike settled home nerves after Alexei Kirillov set them a-jangle in the closing stages with a goal for Spartak, but this was unquestionably Kaprizov’s day.
Traktor made Tuesday’s game the start of a seven-game series marking each of the seven decades of the club’s history. But while the party started off the ice, it took time for the team to make its grand entrance in the game.
Torpedo, undefeated in 2017, demonstrated why it is riding high in the Western Conference table with two goals in 20 seconds to take control of the fixture midway through the game. Vladimir Galuzin and Evgeny Mozer found the net to hit the ‘mute’ button for Traktor’s celebrations.
The home team would not be completely upstaged on its big night, though. A third-period fightback saw Dmitry Pestunov and Konstantin Klimontov tie the game at 2-2, taking us to overtime with the momentum seeming to favor the host.
But up stepped Ilya Proskuryakov, a man renowned for his sang-froid in do-or-die situations. The Torpedo goalie made three saves in overtime and two more in the shoot-out, denying Derek Roy and Paul Szczechura. Galuzin and Kaspars Daugavins both scored for the visitor, extending Torpedo’s winning streak to five games.