One set of Army Men made way for another at the top of the KHL table as SKA’s defeat in Finland allowed CSKA to move into first place with a 2-0 win at Dinamo Riga. The rival regiments are tied on 104 points, but CSKA has more wins in regulation. In the day’s big derby game, Salavat Yulaev edged Ak Bars in a shoot-out to secure bragging rights for the season: earlier the Ufa team won 4-2 at home to its Kazan rival.
SKA went down to a fourth successive defeat in the regular season for the first time in its KHL history, losing out 3-2 in Finland to a third-period goal from Antti Pihlstrom.
The experienced former Salavat Yulaev and CSKA man potted only his third of the season in the 50th minute, snapping a 2-2 tie and giving Jokerit a vital win in its push for a playoff place. The Finns only managed three shots on goal in the final period, but Pihlstrom did enough to put away the rebound from Jesper Jensen’s effort.
Earlier, SKA seemed to be carrying on the form that saw it come so close to clawing back a 0-5 deficit in Minsk last time out. Pavel Datsyuk put the visitor ahead in the sixth minute, finding space to collect a Vyacheslav Voynov pass and fire past Ryan Zapolski.
Jokerit hit back with two goals either side of the first intermission. Pekka Jormakka tied the game before Peter Regin made it 2-1 in the 21st minute. The lead, though, was short-lived. Patrik Hersley got a short-handed goal for SKA, surviving a claim of offside from the home bench to tie the game.
It wasn’t enough though, and not even a late flourish from the visitor could save SKA from another loss than enabled CSKA to edge into top spot.
For two periods, there was little to choose between two teams at opposite ends of the Western Conference table.
Dinamo more than held its own in the opening session, narrowly outshooting its high-flying guest as the scoresheet remained blank. The second period was dominated by CSKA, but a penalty shot squandered by Andrei Kuzmenko was as close as we got to an opening goal.
By the start of the third, though, the Army Men knew the score from Helsinki and realized that top spot was up for grabs. Kirill Petrov finally made the breakthrough in the 47th minute, wrapping up a counter attack that started with Ivan Telegin surging down the right and feeding Alexander Popov for the killer pass to Petrov.
The latest instalment of the ‘green derby’ between Ak Bars and Salavat Yulaev was a typically feisty affair, with the trash talk continuing after the game as players aired their grievances to the media.
On the ice, though, the action was as tight as ever between these two old foes. Alexander Svitov put Ak Bars ahead early, only for Enver Lisin to tie it up midway through the third. With Salavat desperate to snap a five-game losing streak, the shoot-out saw goalie Niklas Svedberg come into his own.
The penalty count was surprisingly low – just three minors, and two of those for ‘too many men’. But there was still time for players to get frustrated with one another. After the game, Ak Bars’ Artyom Lukoyanov complained that too many Salavat players were eager to chirp, but reluctant to drop the gloves.
All four of the goalies who dressed for this game spent time on the ice, albeit for different reasons.
Sibir started with Ivan Nalimov between the piping, but swapped him for Alexei Krasikov after Vladimir Bryukvin made it 3-1 to Dynamo on 32:41. The change did not yield spectacular results: Lukas Kaspar scored on Krasikov after 28 seconds as Sibir spun to defeat.
Dynamo, meanwhile, started with Alexander Lazushin, only to bring Alexander Yeryomenko off the bench for the final four minutes and 10 seconds. Yeryomenko was in place when Alexei Tereshchenko completed the scoring for the Blue-and-Whites with an empty-net goal.
Earlier Sibir took a first-period lead thanks to a power-play goal from Maxim Ignatovich. But two quick goals from Dynamo late in the opening stanza saw Ilya Nikulin and Denis Kokarev turn the game around and set the visitor on the way to victory.
Vityaz, searching for points to boost its playoff push, went to Avangard looking to end a six-game losing streak in Omsk.
But Avangard, which lost out by the odd goal in five against Dynamo on Tuesday, hit back in the second period to tie the game on goals from David Booth and Maxim Pestushko. Then a penalty late in the session saw the home team begin the final stanza on the power play, and Vitaly Menshikov capitalized on that opportunity to grab the game-winner in the 42nd minute.
Defending champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk snatched a late, late win at Neftekhimik with a goal 19 seconds from the hooter.
The game was scoreless – and fairly evenly poised – until a late penalty on the host gave Jan Kovar the chance to win it. The Czech forward dropped the puck off for Sergei Mozyakin before embarking on a sweeping circular move that enabled him to arrive at the back post unmarked in time to meet Mozyakin’s return pass and fire beyond Andrei Kareyev, who had previously denied 37 Metallurg attempts.
Vasily Koshechkin made 32 saves to claim his shut-out as Magnitka moves on to 99 points for the season.
Slovan began the evening with a tribute to Miroslav Satan, one of the greatest players in Slovak hockey history, before doing battle with Kunlun for the first time.
But this clash between the KHL’s oldest club and its newest went the way of the visitor from Beijing as Tuukka Mantyla got an overtime winner on the power play 32 seconds before the end.
Jonathan Cheechoo opened the scoring for Slovan midway through the game, but the Chinese team tied it up in the 52nd minute with a goal made in Slovakia. Martin Bakos was the provider, chipping an awkward looping shot at Justin Pogge, and Tomas Marcinko was on hand to shoot home the rebound.
A shut-out from Pavel Francouz, who made 26 saves, and a goal in each period saw Traktor to a 3-0 win at Lada. The Chelyabinsk team was playing its sixth successive road game and made a perfect start when Artyom Penkovsky opened the scoring in the third minute. Paul Szczechura doubled the lead on the power play just after the midway mark then assisted as Konstantin Klimontov wrapped things up with an empty-net goal.
Dinamo Minsk suffered its first defeat in six, going down in a shoot-out at home to Severstal. Alexander Avtsin put the visitor in front early in the second period, but Andrei Stepanov tied the game midway through the third. Visiting goalie Jakub Kovar dominated the shoot-out with three saves as Maxim Trunyov got the winner.
Two goals in the last minute saw Medvescak beat Amur 3-1 and post its fourth straight win. Yury Nazarov gave the visitor a first-period lead, and for a long time that seemed to be enough to take the game. But Tomislav Zanoski tied the scores in the 44th minute with his first goal of the season and Alexandre Bolduc got the winner on 59:36. Lukas Lessio added an empty net goal in the last second to seal the win.