Lokomotiv’s new head coach, Dmitry Kvartalnov, suffered a 2-5 loss at CSKA in his second game in charge – a game that saw him face the club he served last season. SKA cruised to its 20th consecutive victory, easing past Spartak 4-0, while Emil Garipov made 38 saves to help Ak Bars win 5-0 at Torpedo. Eduard Zankovets got his first win as Slovan head coach, overcoming Sochi at home.
Dmitry Kvartalnov made his return to the KHL last week when he was unveiled as Lokomotiv’s new head coach. And, in one of life’s little ironies, his second game as a Railwayman took him to CSKA, the club he left at the end of last season.
That departure, of course, came after Lokomotiv had ended CSKA’s playoff hopes in the Western Conference semi-finals, a surprise result and a big disappointment for the Army Men. Since then, with Igor Nikitin at the helm, the Moscow team had rebuilt. Young prospect Kirill Kaprizov arrived from Ufa, and several Russians returned from North America to play in their homeland.
Those new faces had a significant impact on the outcome of this game. Karpizov scored twice and had one assist, summer signing Mikhail Grigorenko also found the net and Nikita Nesterov, another returning Russian, had two assists. Kvartalnov could be forgiven for feeling that last season might have been very different if he had a similar roster to call on.
Instead, Loko’s new coach has more pressing concerns. The Yaroslavl PK continues to stutter: tonight saw three power play goals conceded, including first-period strikes from Karpizov and Artyom Blazhiyevsky either side of Alexander Kadeikin’s tally for Lokomotiv. The second period brought something of a collapse for Kvartalnov’s new charges: three unanswered goals from Valery Nichushkin, Grigorenko and Kaprizov; outshot 18-5. The final stanza was better, and Daniil Apalkov managed to reduce the deficit, but this was not an evening that suggested the Railwaymen are on track to challenge the best in West just yet.
There’s just no stopping SKA. Even after establishing a KHL record winning streak, the defending champion showed no sign of slowing down. Four goals without reply in the second period at Spartak took the run to 20 games, and crowned another performance that offered few hints about how to get the better of this team.
Spartak was competitive for the first period, throwing all it had into the battle and even going close to taking the lead. If Maxim Trunyov’s effort against the post late in the opening session had found the target, maybe the Red-and-Whites would have gained the momentum needed to fend off their in-form opponent. Instead, though, they merely sent a wake-up call to SKA, and the middle stanza saw the game ruthlessly decided.
SKA began by killing a penalty, then moved on to ruthlessly taking apart the opposition. Four goals in eight minutes made the difference: Sergei Plotnikov, Nikita Gusev, Dinar Khafizullin and David Rundblad all beat Nikita Bespalov; the home goalie was replaced by 21-year-old Alexander Trushkov for remainder of the game.
Trushkov performed creditably, denying any further goals for the visitor. At the other end, though, Igor Shestyorkin also put in a flawless display with 21 saves against the club where he began as a junior. SKA, imperious, marches on.
Vladimir Tkachyov fired a hat-trick as Ak Bars enjoyed a crushing victory at Torpedo.
The Eastern Conference leader took control early. Justin Azevedo and Vasily Tokranov scored within 48 seconds of each other before the game reached the first ad break. Torpedo replaced starting goalie Ivan Lisutin with 22-year-old Nikolai Molkov, but the youngster’s second career appearance in the KHL proved to be a brief affair.
Molkov had already been beaten once, only for Ak Bars’ third to be ruled out for kicking at the start of the second period. But it wasn’t long before Tkachyov opened his account for the night with a 25th minute power play marker. That brought Lisutin back to the crease, but Tkachyov demonstrated that he had the measure of the (re)starting goalie as well, scoring in the 39th and 60th minutes.
Torpedo’s goal-tending problems were underlined by the shot count. Ak Bars had just 17 shots on the net, and scored five. Torpedo tested Emil Garipov 38 times, but could not beat the visiting goalie.
Eduard Zankovets celebrated his first victory in charge of Slovan after a solid home win against Sochi.
Further penalty trouble saw Sochi slip out of contention in the third. Nick Ebert’s power play goal made it 3-0, and Smolenak got his second of the night with eight minutes left. Pavel Padakin gave the visitor a consolation effort, but the night belonged to Slovan.