It was a good day for the Ural teams as Metallurg, Traktor and Avtomobilist all enjoyed home victories. For Magnitka, the relief was especially sweet after four losses saw the team drop out of the play-off spots in the East. Traktor sprang a surprise for Conference leader Ak Bars, while Avtomobilist moved joint top of the Chernyshev Division with a 4-0 victory over Salavat Yulaev. Neftekhimik inflicted a 10th successive loss on Lada in Sunday’s other game.
Traktor snapped its losing streak by defeating the Eastern Conference leader – but the Chelyabinsk team did it the hard way after letting slip a 2-0 lead.
The early stages went exactly according to plan for the home team, with Ak Bars struggling to generate offense early on. Richard Gynge potted his second goal since moving to the Urals, converting a power play in the 13th minute, to give Traktor the edge at the first intermission.
Into the middle session, the same tactics continued to be effective and Gynge got involved on the power play again with an assist as Paul Szczechura made it 2-0. But then it all went astray early in the third. Ak Bars got its offense in gear and grabbed two quick goals to tie the game. First, Vladimir Tkachyov found a precise shot from the face-off circle then, 45 seconds later, Anton Glinkin saw his effort deflected past Vasily Demchenko to tie the game against his former club.
Traktor, though, was not to be denied. The game went to overtime, but Alexander Rybakov settled the outcome inside a minute, collecting Maxim Yakutsenya’s pass in center ice and rushing through to beat Emil Garipov through the five-hole.
A four-game losing streak is unfamiliar territory for Metallurg, a team more accustomed to life at the summit of the Eastern Conference. But this high-scoring game with a Sochi team going well in the West set Magnitka back on track, helped by two goals apiece from Evgeny Timkin and Jan Kovar.
Metallurg took control in the first period, thanks to goals from Kovar on the power play and Sergei Tereshchenko on the blue line. Timkin then added two in the middle session, but in between those tallies Sochi hauled itself back into contention with a trio of goals of its own. Vadim Khomitsky pulled one back on a counter attack as the visitor killed a penalty, Pavel Padakin made it 2-3 after a long spell of pressure on the home net and a power play marker from Nikita Shchitov briefly tied the game at 3-3.
The visitor drew level for a second time in the 50th minute when Eric O’Dell got the vital touch on Ilya Khokhlov’s shot to convert another power play chance. For Metallurg, whose confidence in recent games has been fragile, it was another anxious moment. This time, though, there was an assured conclusion. Sergei Mozyakin set up Nikita Pivtsakin to make it 5-4 and Kovar grabbed his second of the night to settle the outcome late on.
For two periods there was almost nothing between these two teams – but in the final stanza Avtomobilist powered to an impressive victory over an in-form visitor.
The opening session was entirely even, and light on scoring chances. The second saw Salavat Yulaev generate more offense without seriously testing Jakub Kovar. But when Avtomobilist converted a power play in the 42nd minute, thanks to a powerful wrist shot from Alexei Vasilevsky, the game was dramatically transformed.
A three-man rush ended with Evgeny Chesalin finding the net in the 47th minute, although it took a video review to confirm that the puck had crossed the line. Then Alexander Kucheryavenko made it 3-0 in the 52nd minute and Taylor Beck wrapped it up with an empty-net goal. Kovar finished with 27 saves to post his second shut-out in three games.
Neftekhimik moves to within a point of Eastern Conference leader Ak Bars after inflicting yet another loss on Lada.
The home team suffered its 10th successive defeat, and the outcome looked bleak as early as the fourth minute when Chad Rau put Neftekhimik in front. Andrej Nestrasil made it 2-0 in the 18th minute to put Lada firmly on the skids yet again.
After that poor start, there was some evidence of improvement for the struggling host. The middle session, although bereft of goal action, at least saw Lada match its opponent. And in the final stanza Yefim Gurkin pulled one back to keep the pressure on Neftekhimik until the end. It wasn’t enough, though, and the visitor moves on to 27 points for the season.