Metallurg Magnitogorsk shrugged off a tough few days with a 4-1 victory at Salavat Yulaev – although there were two empty-net goals to put some gloss on the final scoreline. Elsewhere, it was a good day for players against their former clubs: Ilya Krikunov scored twice for Avtomobilist at Sochi, and Anssi Salmela got Dinamo Riga’s overtime winner against Avangard.
Metallurg snapped a three-game losing streak with a big win at Salavat Yulaev – earning the team some respite after a turbulent few days.
Magnitka had faced plenty of criticism after slipping to seventh in the Eastern Conference, and dipped into the transfer market to trade Yaroslav Kosov for Ak Bars’ Andrei Chibisov, who made his debut here in Ufa. Another new signing, Denis Kokarev, was not included in the roster having barely completed his move from Salavat Yulaev before the game.
Initially, it seemed that the team’s troubles were set to continue: Joonas Kemppainen gave the home team the lead in the seventh minute, and Salavat Yulaev arguably had a slight edge for much of the first two periods, at least in terms of time spent in the opposition zone.
But it didn’t have the edge on the scoreline. Vladislav Kaletnik stole a tying goal 10 seconds before the second intermission, haring away on a short-handed break-out to beat Ben Scrivens. Then, 18 seconds after the restart, Sergei Mozyakin grabbed the game-winner just three seconds after Philip Larsen went into the sin bin for the host.
The rapid turnaround did not deflate Salavat Yulaev, but goalie Vasily Koshechkin was in good form and made 22 saves in the third period. At the other end, Magnitka picked up a second short-handed goal when Nikita Pivtsakin found the empty net, and Denis Platonov added another empty-netter to complete the victory.
There was more encouraging news for the team after the game, when Metallurg’s vice-president Gennady Velichkin told journalists that defenseman Chris Lee was heading back to Magnitogorsk for the remainder of the season. Lee spent four successful seasons at the club before leaving in the summer and trying out at the LA Kings.
Avtomobilist remains in sixth place in the East after edging past Sochi.
The first period was goalless, although both goalies were kept busy as the teams pressed for an opener. The deadlock was broken early in the second, when Michal Cajkovsky shot home from the blue line on the power play.
Avto went on to have the better of the middle stanza, but had to wait until the third period to extend its lead. Former Sochi man Ilya Krikunov got the goal, and it proved to be the game-winner. Sochi’s Andrei Ivanov got one back on a late power play, but Krikunov had the final word with an empty-net goal to wrap up the points.
Dinamo Riga made it two wins in three games – and collected just its fifth victory of the season – thanks to Anssi Salmela’s overtime strike.
This was a game dominated by goalies, with no scoring in regulation time as Janis Kalnins and Dominik Furch kept both sets of forwards at bay. Kalnins finished with 28 saves to claim his first shut-out of the season.
The game was decided by Salmela, who scored against one of his former clubs. The Finnish defenseman, now 33, spent two seasons in Omsk from 2011-2013, reaching the Gagarin Cup final along the way. He returned to the KHL last season for a brief stint with Kunlun Red Star before coming to Riga this season. His goal came in the final minute of overtime, collecting a Mikelis Redlihs feed on the red line and advancing to the face-off spot before unleashing a thunderous shot past Furch.