SKA’s winning start to the season takes Oleg Znarok’s men to a new KHL record. Friday’s 3-2 success at home to Sibir makes it 19 wins in a row, the best ever winning sequence in KHL history. Other teams with something to celebrate included Dinamo Minsk, which beat Dynamo Moscow for the second time in a week; HC Sochi, which saw new signing Mikhail Yunkov score twice to beat Barys; and Avangard, with two late goals to win at Salavat Yulaev.
The current campaign is not going particularly well for either of these teams, but it was Lada who motored away with the points after stifling Admiral’s offense. The home team mustered just 15 shots on target, and Alexander Lazushin dealt with all of them to give the visitor a foundation for its win.
The first period was goalless, and almost incident free: the teams traded a meagre six shots in an anxious opening exchange. Things livened up after the intermission, with Lada finding the net within 10 seconds through Kirill Kapustin. Admiral claimed offside, but the video confirmed that the goal was good.
Semyon Kokuyov was Traktor’s game-winner in this one, getting the decisive goal with eight minutes left to play. Kokuyov struck off an Alexander Sharov feed, holding the puck at the top of the circle until a shooting lane opened up and then despatching the chance beyond Juha Metsola.
That settled a competitive game. Artyom Penkovsky gave Traktor the lead in the ninth minute, but Amur turned it around either side of the intermission. Tomas Zohorna tied it up 12 seconds before the break, then Oleg Li made it 2-1 after 25 seconds of the middle stanza.
Experienced goal-getter Maxim Yakutsenya hauled the visitor level in the 36th minute, and Traktor secured the points thanks to Kokuyov’s goal.
Metallurg powered into a two-goal lead early in this game, but had to settle for a shoot-out win in its first competitive meeting with former head coach Mike Keenan.
Keenan’s understudy in his time in Magnitogorsk, Ilya Vorobyov, saw his team get off to a flying start against his old boss. A 5-on-3 power play midway through the first period saw Metallurg open a 2-0 lead with goals from Matt Ellison and Grigory Dronov.
But Kunlun refused to fold. Cory Kane halved the deficit within two minutes and, after an evenly-matched second period, the home team tied the game at the start of the third. Wojtek Wolski, who was also facing his former club, picked up his second assist of the game with a cute pass for Gilbert Brule to head to the net. Brule evaded the efforts of Nikita Pivtsakin and fired a ripper of a wrist shot beyond Vasily Koshechkin to tie the game.
At the other end, Tomi Karhunen produced a solid performance after being called from the bench to replace Magnus Hellberg in the 14th minute. He was not beaten until the shoot-out, when Ellison grabbed the winner for the visitor.
Two late goals added to the misery in Ufa as Avangard condemned Salavat Yulaev to a third successive loss.
After going down 1-6 at home to SKA on Wednesday, Erkka Westerlund’s team had something to prove against its Chernyshev Division rival, but Avangard won it with two goals in the last five minutes.
Pyotr Khokhryakov got the game-winner as the clock ticked past 55 minutes. He was perfectly placed to push Ansel Galimov’s pass into an open net after Dmitry Kugryshev’s lightning break down the right. The home bench appealed for an offside call, but to no avail. Ilya Mikheyev then added an empty net goal – his second score of the night – to seal the outcome for Avangard.
It wasn’t all bad news for Salavat, though. The home team was much improved in the early stages, and claimed the lead thanks to Joonas Kemppainen’s 14th-minute effort. Admittedly, it wasn’t the prettiest goal the Finn has scored; his no-look pass towards the slot from behind the net got tangled up in Evgeny Medvedev’s skates and squirted into the net. But it was a deserved lead after a first period that saw 20 shots on Andrei Kareyev’s net.
The lead didn’t last, though. Mikheyev tied it up late in the second period as Avangard locked down the home offense, and the final session saw the points heading for Omsk.
SKA set a new KHL record for consecutive victories, picking up its 19th win in a row since the start of the season to move past Avangard’s mark. But Sibir made it tough for the Army Men, threatening to crash the party with a resilient display and a third-period fightback.
SKA’s success this season has been built on rollicking offense; this week alone the team blasted 12 goals in road games at Lokomotiv and Salavat Yulaev. Nikita Gusev and Ilya Kovalchuk were in red hot form, and the crowd settled down to await the latest firework display. And waited. And waited. The first intermission arrived, and the game was goalless. And, by recent standards, bereft of goal action. SKA was limited to nine shots at Alexei Krasikov and when the goalie was beaten, a video review reprieved him.
After the break, finally, SKA found its scoring form. The third power play of the night ended with Gusev setting up Sergei Plotnikov to break the deadlock. Two minutes later, Dinar Khafizullin made it 2-0. This was more like it, but the home team’s progress was disrupted by penalty trouble and Sibir was still in the game – just – after 40 minutes.
Jonas Enlund pulled a goal back in the 49th minute, and suddenly a routine engagement was starting to look problematic. The winner came from an unlikely source: Evgeny Ketov is a player often overlooked on SKA’s stella offense, but he came up with the all-important goal when he surprised Krasikov with an early shot from the top of the circle. Sibir tried to battle back, and Simon Onerud got his first goal for the club after moving from Sochi, but SKA closed out the game and established that record.
For the second game running, there were nine goals at Neftekhimik. This time, though, the home team could not claim the majority and lost out as Ugra got its third overtime win in four games.
Anton Korolyov settled it 79 seconds into the extras after a lively affair in Tatarstan. The first period set the tone, with Damir Sharipzyanov and Alexander Ugolnikov trading goals within a matter of seconds midway through the session. Then, after the midway point, Ugra went ahead through Konstantin Panov only to fall behind to rapid replies from Alexander Avtsin and Robin Hanzl.
Dinamo Minsk picked up a second win in quick succession against its namesake from Moscow. After a Quinton Howden hat-trick inspired a 5-1 victory in Belarus, goals from Evgeny Kovyrshin and Artyom Volkov earned a 2-1 win in the Russian capital.
The home team took the lead thanks to Dustin Boyd in the 24th minute, but Kovyrshin tied it up on the power play shortly afterwards. And, as the game approached its final moments, Volkov popped up with the winner to inflict a fourth successive loss on Dynamo.
Sochi’s stuttering start to the season sent the club to the transfer market for reinforcements – and Mikhail Yunkov delivered a two-goal tonic to down Barys.
Yunkov, without a club after leaving Avangard at the end of last season, came to the Black Sea earlier this week and had an assist in a debut defeat against Sibir. Today, though, he engineered his first victory in his new colors. He got his first goal in the ninth minute, stuffing the puck home on the wraparound after Nikita Shchitov’s shot went wide. Then, in the second period, Eric O’Dell’s majestic backhand pass from behind the net presented Yunkov with his second of the night. Casey Wellman quickly added a third, and Sochi was cruising.