The game between SKA and Jokerit represented a battle between two rival schools of hockey, with the Finns under Erkka Westerlund playing a typically cagey game and Vyacheslav Butusov looking to his powerful offense to undermine that.
It’s a Russia-Finland clash that we’ve seen at the highest level of international hockey on many occasions, and at club level it gained extra spice from the impressive starts both teams had made to the season.
But in the end adventure out-ranked caution in St. Petersburg. Jokerit’s careful, precise game held SKA at bay until the 27th minute but finally Ilya Kovalchuk found a chink in the Finns’ pressing tactics and produced two goals to separate the teams. Kovi was to have a hand in all four goals, claiming an assist Viktor Tikhonov added a third in the final session and repeating the trick as Artemy Panarin wrapped it up late on.
Jokerit’s Steve Moses got a consolation for the visitors, who contributed fully to an entertaining game, but SKA took a 4-1 victory and Kovalchuk took the day’s plaudits.
Rafael Khakimov’s 37 saves blunted the home offense and steered his team to a 2-0 victory, claiming his first KHL shut-out. He was busiest in the second period when Avangard fired in 20 shots on goal and allowed just three at the other end, but enjoyed an easier time in the third, partly due to Sergei Shirokov, the league’s top goalscorer, leaving the game through injury.
Avangard’s play, orchestrated by assistant coach Eduard Zankovets in the absence of Raino Summanen, didn’t excite the home crowd, though. They felt that for all their team’s pressure, poor decision making around Khakimov’s net meant that few of those shots carried any real menance.
Boyd and Bochenski led the team’s scoring, each posting 1+3 as Barys roared into a 5-0 lead inside 28 minutes.
Lauris Darzins scored 2+1 – including a short-handed goal – as Dinamo Riga edged Medvescak 4-3. Darzins got the winner with just 144 seconds left to play.