Metallurg Magnitogorsk suffered its third successive defeat, going down 3-1 at high-flying Neftekhimik and dropping to seventh in the table. Avtomobilist moves ahead of last season’s Gagarin Cup finalist thanks to a shoot-out victory at Ak Bars. Elsewhere, Teemu Hartikainen scored twice as Salavat Yulaev beat Lada, and Traktor came from behind to win at Sochi.
Two goals from Teemu Hartikainen saw Salavat Yulaev made it three wins from four games.
The Finn opened the scoring in the third minute, before a flurry of action saw the teams trade goals in the 19th minute. Denis Zernov tied the game on a power play, and five seconds later Lada had another opportunity as Evgeny Korotkov picked up a minor penalty. But Salavat Yulaev responded with a shorthanded goal from Maxim Mayorov after Joonas Kemppainen sent him through on Anton Krasotkin’s net.
Back in front, the home team offered no way back for Lada. Hartikainen got his second of the game to make it 3-1, then had an assist as Denis Kokarev completed the scoring. Lada’s Alexei Kirillov was ejected from the game late on for a high hit.
Metallurg went down to a third consecutive defeat, while Neftekhimik is riding high in third place in the East after picking up its fourth victory in five outings. Andrei Nazarov’s team is emerging as a surprise contender, standing ahead of the likes of Magnitka and Salavat Yulaev and pushing Kharlamov Division leader Ak Bars.
The visitor, plagued by defensive injuries all season, had to reshuffle once again due to the absence of Grigory Dronov. Nikita Bobryashov, 22, returned to the roster to give some depth to Magnitka’s blue line.
However, the goals kept coming. Metallurg had allowed 11 in its previous two games and was down after just four minutes here. Pavel Zdunov got the opener, and Emil Galimov soon doubled Neftekhimik’s lead.
The middle session was dominated by penalties rather than goals, but Alexander Bryntsev made it 3-0 for the host in the 40th minute. The 22-year-old defenseman has only scored three goals this season, but two of them were game winners and this third marker contributed to another Neftekhimik victory.
It took a shoot-out to separate Eastern Conference leader Ak Bars and Avtomobilist, seventh at the start of play.
And the verdict went to the outsider, after Avto took advantage of its late equalizer to win the game thanks to Ilya Krikunov’s decisive attempt.
The game went goalless until deep in the third period: Avto had the better of the opening stanza, Ak Bars responded in kind after the intermission, but Artyom Lukoyanov’s 52nd-minute effort finally gave the home team the lead.
It wasn’t enough to win the game outright, though: Francis Pare converted a power play chance in the 56th minute, and it was off to overtime.
Traktor came from behind to win at Sochi and move to within a point of the playoff places.
Ivan Larichev, Sochi’s 21-year-old hot shot, took his career record to three in four games as the home team opened the scoring in the eighth minute. Playing alongside Pavel Padakin and Eric O’Dell clearly suits the youngster; that duo provided the assists here.
However, it wasn’t enough to inspire the team to a third straight win. Instead, Traktor rallied in the second period. Ivan Vishnevsky tied it up on a power play, then Paul Szczechura claimed the winner in the 39th minute. Sochi dominated the final session, but could not find a way past Vasily Demchenko in the visitor’s net.