Andy Potts,
exclusive for

The KHL’s top two both picked up important victories – but both had to battle to get the verdict. CSKA needed a shoot-out to record its third win of the season at city rival Dynamo, with home goalie Ivan Bocharov defying the Army Men’s offense for much of the game. SKA was deadlocked for two periods at Metallurg in a repeat of last season’s Grand Final, but exploded in the final stanza to power to a 4-0 victory.

Neftekhimik misses a chance of top spot

Sibir Novosibirsk 6 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 2 (2-1, 2-1, 2-0)

Neftekhimik’s impressive form this season has made it one of the KHL’s most talked-about teams – and turned the team into a real contender to top the Eastern Conference. But Sibir, under the guidance of recently-appointed head coach Vladimir Yurzinov, has kick-started its bid for a playoff place. In this game, the Siberians powered to an impressive win, making it four victories from the last five.

Alexander Bergstrom laid the foundations with two first period goals, and picked up an assist late in the game to make it 9 (6+3) points in his last five games. Neftekhimik remained in contention, though, with Andrej Nestrasil getting one back before the first intermission and Marat Khairullin finding the net as the teams traded goals early in the second period.

But Igor Levitsky’s 30th-minute strike was the game-breaker. A defensive mix-up invited him to fire in his team’s fourth of the game, and Neftekhimik never recovered. Patrik Zackrisson and Vladimir Pervushin extended Sibir’s winning margin in the third period.

Mikheyev double helps Avangard to win

Avangard Omsk 5 Ak Bars Kazan 3 (0-1, 2-2, 3-0)

Avangard turned this game around in the third period to claim victory in a clash of the divisional leaders in the East.

Ak Bars spent much of the opening stanza on the back foot, but got the only goal through Rob Klinkhammer in the ninth minute. Klinkhammer, hoping to make Canada’s Olympic roster, now has three goals in his last four games. Avangard’s first fight-back came early in the second period when Ilya Mikheyev tied the scores and Kirill Semyonov’s power play goal put the host up. However, Stanislav Galiyev scored twice in two minutes to give Ak Bars the lead at the second intermission.

In the final frame, the visitor had more of the play, but some clinical work from Avangard’s unpredictable offense turned the game in the Siberians’ favor. Dmitry Kugryshev tied it up before Mikheyev got his second of the night with 10 minutes to play. Ak Bars worked hard to tie it up, but Pyotr Khokhryakov scored into the empty net to seal Avangard’s win.

Kareyev’s 50 saves deny Barys

Barys Astana 0 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 2 (0-0, 0-1, 0-1)

There was little doubt about the hero of this clash between two teams anxious to secure their playoff places. Salavat Yulaev goalie Andrei Kareyev produced a stunning performance, stopping 50 shots to frustrate the home team.

However, while the stats are impressive, it’s worth noting that Barys was reliant on its defensemen to bulk out its shooting – suggesting that the visiting defense was making it tough for the opposition to get inside and create clear scoring chances. D-men Darren Dietz (seven shots), Alexei Maklyukov (six) and Roman Savchenko (five) all called Kareyev into action regularly, but with leading scorer Nigel Dawes unavailable, the Kazakhs lacked a cutting edge.

No so for Salavat. After withstanding all the pressure in the first period, the visitor went ahead early in the second thanks to Teemu Hartikainen. And, with Barys increasingly frustrated by Kareyev, Linus Omark fired into an empty net to wrap up the points.

Bailen scores on his former club

Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 Dinamo Minsk 0 (1-0, 0-0, 1-0)

Traktor kept itself in front of Salavat Yulaev, matching its rival’s 2-0 scoreline in this game against Dinamo.

Nick Bailen, once a Dinamo player, opened the scoring in the first period. The defenseman chased the puck off the boards and slung in an instinctive shot that deceived Jhonas Enroth with 12 minutes played.

The visitor worked hard for an equalizer, but could not beat Pavel Francouz. Traktor’s goalie made 42 saves, and Linus Videll finished the job with an empty net goal.

Ugra blanks Sochi

Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk 2 HC Sochi 0 (1-0, 0-0, 1-0)

Ugra made it three wins from four games, but remains rooted to the foot of the KHL table.

The home team bounced back from a 1-6 thrashing at Sibir to thwart a Sochi team looking to secure its playoff place in the West. Veli-Matti Savinainen’s power play goal opened the scoring, Vojtech Polak added a second midway through the final frame.

Ilya Proskuryakov picked up his first shut-out of the season, making 19 saves to deny Sochi’s forwards.

Gone in 22 seconds

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 0 SKA St. Petersburg 4 (0-0, 0-0, 0-4)

Everyone in the KHL knows that SKA is a dangerous opponent. How dangerous? Just ask Magnitka. Monday’s repeat of last season’s Gagarin Cup Final was a close-fought affair for two periods … but then the Army Men found that extra, killer gear.

Two goals in 22 seconds early in the third period transformed the game. What was a battle, became a procession; where Metallurg was competitive, it found itself overwhelmed. Sergei Shirokov broke the deadlock on 44:36, Ilya Kablukov made it 2-0 on 44:58. The game was done.

SKA’s dominance of the final stanza was almost total. Metallurg mustered just three shots on goal, and spent less than two minutes in attacking positions. The defending champion eased to a comfortable victory with further markers from Sergei Plotnikov and Vladislav Gavrikov. Vadim Shipachyov picked up two assists and SKA registered an impressive win without a single point from Ilya Kovalchuk or Pavel Datsyuk. That’s the kind of depth of production that makes this team so dangerous.

Photo: 25.12.17. KHL Championship 2017/18. Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

Lokomotiv stumbles in Togliatti

Lada Togliatti 3 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 1 (1-0, 2-1, 0-0)

Lada surprised Lokomotiv in this one with two quick goals late in the second period derailing Loko.

The home team got in front late in the opening frame through Igor Skorokhodov, but Alexander Kadeikin tied the scores midway through the game.

Then, however, Lada struck twice in two minutes to win it. Alexander Nesterov put the host back in front on 36:23 before Denis Zernov made it 3-1 on 37:50.

Photo: 25.12.17. KHL Championship 2017/18. Lada (Togliatti) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

CSKA grinds down Dynamo’s resistance

Dynamo Moscow 2 CSKA Moscow 3 SO (1-2, 1-0, 0-0, 0-0, 0-1)

CSKA claimed its third derby win of the season over Dynamo, but this time the Army Men needed a shoot-out to secure the verdict.

Defeats against Metallurg and Vityaz left Igor Nikitin’s team looking slightly vulnerable going into this Moscow showdown, and Ivan Igumnov’s early goal gave Dynamo more reasons to believe it could reverse this fixture’s recent form. However, a power play goal from ex-Blue-and-White Mat Robinson – who now has two goals and one assist against his former club this season – tied the scores and Andrei Kuzmenko put the visitor 2-1 up late in the first.

Dynamo was well behind on the shot count, but battled to remain in the game and got its reward in the 35th minute when Igor Ignatushkin tied the scores at 2-2. Then home goalie Ivan Bocharov pulled off 19 saves in the third to drag the game into overtime, only to lose out in the shoot-out when Greg Scott and Mikhail Grigorenko scored on him to give CSKA the win.

Photo: 25.12.17. KHL Championship 2017/18. Dynamo (Moscow) - CSKA (Moscow)

Andy Potts,
exclusive for

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Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
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Dinamo (Minsk) Dinamo (Minsk)
Lada (Togliatti) Lada (Togliatti)
Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)
Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)
Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk) Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)
Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)
Sibir (Novosibirsk Region) Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)
SKA (Saint Petersburg) SKA (Saint Petersburg)
HC Sochi (Sochi) HC Sochi (Sochi)
Traktor (Chelyabinsk) Traktor (Chelyabinsk)
HC Dynamo (Moscow) HC Dynamo (Moscow)
CSKA (Moscow) CSKA (Moscow)
Ugra (Khanty-Mansiysk) Ugra (Khanty-Mansiysk)
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