There was no question about the big game of the day, and the clash of the Conference leaders didn’t disappoint the neutrals. SKA eventually took the verdict in overtime when Patrik Hersley’s goal snapped a 2-2 tie. Elsewhere, Lokomotiv needed overtime to win at Sochi, while Neftekhimik had little trouble with Dinamo Minsk.
Neftekhimik kept up the pressure on Ak Bars with a win that moves it to within three points of the Eastern Conference leader.
After sharing the spoils in the first period – Dan Sexton’s early goal cancelled out by Dinamo’s Dmitry Buinitsky, the home team took command in the second. Andrej Nestrasil made it 2-1 with a power play goal in the 23rd minute, then Chad Rau added a third as the second intermission drew near. Bogdan Yakimov added a fourth midway through the final stanza.
Neftekhimik is currently on a decent run of form, with four wins in its last six as it contests the leadership of the Kharlamov Division; Dinamo’s third loss in a row leaves it seven points shy of a playoff spot in the West.
It needed overtime to get there, but Oleg Znarok overcame his old rival Zinetula Bilyaletdinov for the first time as head coach of SKA.
In a game full of incident, SKA got off to a fine start when two recent signings combined for an early opener. Patrick Thoresen got the assist, Vadim Shipachyov claimed the goal. That was the seventh game running that Shipachyov was among the points, a run matched by Ilya Kovalchuk who also played a part in the opening marker. The visitor went on to have the better of the first period but could not add to its lead.
The middle frame initially promised more of the same, but after Sergei Plotnikov doubled SKA’s advantage, Ak Bars hit back. A power play goal enabled Vladimir Tkachyov to reduce the arrears. Then, after SKA killed another penalty, Anton Lander tied the scores in the 34th minute with a classy effort.
Ak Bars was unable to finish the job though. The game went to overtime, and Patrik Hersley produced the winner for the visitor. SKA celebrated its first success in Kazan since lifting the Gagarin Cup here in 2015. The team also stretched its current winning run to 10 games. The record-breaking 20-game streak at the start of the season could yet be overhauled, and few would bet against this team repeating its earlier Gagarin Cup triumphs.
Lokomotiv recovered from a slow start to collect its fifth win on the spin with this overtime success beside the Black Sea.
Visiting goalie Alexander Sudnitsin had already made some good saves before a power play chance saw Ivan Larichev give Sochi the lead with a power play goal in the sixth minute. Then, once Loko got into the game more, it found Konstantin Barulin in obdurate form at the other end, preserving his team’s slender advantage until deep into the third period.
Finally, the pressure paid off. A third-period power play lasted just seven seconds before Petri Kontiola solved Barulin and tied the game. Then, in the extras, Andrei Loktionov dealt the knock-out blow to Sochi.