Lokomotiv followed up its victory at CSKA by recording the first regulation time win over league leader SKA since November 17. Elsewhere, Tommi Santala’s first KHL goal settles the big match in the East as Metallurg beats Salavat Yulaev, and Ak Bars edges past Severstal in Kazan.
Birthday boy Sean Collins got the party started for Kunlun – but Admiral crashed his party to sail off with the points.
Collins, who turns 28 today, celebrated with his 27th point of the season to convert an eighth-minute power play. But that was the highlight of the evening for Red Star: Admiral tied it up 43 seconds later through Yegor Yakovlev and went on to win the game fairly comfortably. Maxim Kazakov made it 2-1 to the visitor late in the first and the teams struggled to create any chances in a goal-less middle stanza.
The third period, though, turned into something of a battle between Kunlun’s forwards and Admiral goalie Igor Bobkov. The home team fired in 18 shots on his net, but could not find a way past him. At the other end, two breakaway goals saw James Wright and Robert Sabolic wrap up a win that moves Admiral level on points with Red Star. Both teams have 64 points and lie in seventh and eighth places in the Eastern Conference.
Veteran Finnish center Tommi Santala got his first KHL goal – at the ripe old age of 37. The former Atlanta Thrashers and Vancouver Canucks forward joined Metallurg Magnitogorsk from Kloten just before Christmas, and set up his new club’s New Year celebrations with the game winner in Ufa.
Santala, who also picked up assists on two goals for his compatriot Oskar Osala in the first period, got his decisive strike in the 47thminute, snapping a 3-3 tie. It was a largely self-created opportunity, skating into the Salavat zone and spotting the gap as Konstantin Korneyev backed off, opening up a lane for a wrist shot from the top of the left-hand circle. Evgeny Timkin’s empty net goal rounded off the scoring.
Magnitka might have felt that the game was won early on as Osala scored twice in the first three minutes and Jan Kovar made it 3-0 in the 28th. But Salavat struck back just after the halfway mark, with Linus Omark and Denis Kulyash scoring two goals in 15 seconds. Another goal from Finland – Sami Lepisto to Teemu Hartikainen on the power play – tied the game early in the final stanza, but Santala was not to be denied.
Goals from Brandon Kozun and Petri Kontiola, and 46 saves from Alexei Murygin, saw SKA slip to a second successive defeat as Lokomotiv followed up victory over Moscow’s Army Men with a win against their Petersburg counterparts.
Kontiola opened the scoring in the third minute, collecting Staffan Kronwall’s pass in his own zone and embarking on a lazer-like solo rush to the other end of the ice and firing a shot past Igor Shestyorkin.
Kozun doubled the lead late in the second period. Max Talbot was the architect, stripping #27 of the puck in the Loko zone and setting off on a 2-on-2 break with Kozun. An inch-perfect pass handed his team-mate a gift-wrapped finish into a wide open net to double the advantage.
If the game had been fairly even in the opening stanzas, the third was a SKA procession. Ilya Kovalchuk made it 1-2 seconds after the restart and the home team threw everything at Murygin’s goal in search of an equalizer. But a shot count of 23-3 in SKA’s favor wasn’t good enough to tie the game and Oleg Znarok’s team tasted defeat in regulation for the first time since Avtomobilist won here by the same scoreline on November 17.
The Eastern Conference high-flyer recovered from an awful start to take all three points against the outsider from the West.
That lead endured until the first intermission, but the middle stanza saw Ak Bars assert itself. Vasily Tokranov reduced the deficit then Jiri Sekac, scorer of the equalizer in Tuesday’s shoot-out win over SKA, tied the game in the 28th minute.
Stefan Elliot’s 38th-minute effort proved decisive; Tokranov’s assist there meant he was involved in all his team’s goals on the night.
Vityaz missed the chance to strengthen its grip on a playoff spot in the West, while Neftekhimik closed to within three points of the top eight in the East thanks to a strong performance from Igor Polygalov.
Polygalov’s pair, plus further markers from Richard Gynge and Gilbert Brule, put Neftekhimik 4-1 up by the 47th minute. Afinogenov got a helper on Alexei Makeyev’s consolation strike for Vityaz, but Bortnikov had the final word with four minutes to play.