The big game of the day saw Jokerit slip to a 1-3 loss at Avtomobilist and fail to close the gap at the top of the Western Conference. In the playoff race in the West, there were wins for Vityaz and Dynamo Moscow. Metallurg Magnitogorsk’s new signing Michal Bulir got his second goal for the club in a 4-1 win over Sochi.
Jokerit missed the chance to move to within a point of the Western Conference summit after its five-game winning streak came to an end in Yekaterinburg. Avtomobilist recovered from losing an early goal to post its fifth success in a row and maintain its healthy lead in the East.
The Finns began the game impressively and were good value for Marko Anttila’s ninth-minute goal, a wrist shot fired home after Mika Niemi won an attacking face-off. Jakub Kovar had been the busier of the two goalies, but the home offense has been dangerous all season and when Dan Sexton intercepted the puck and released Ilya Krikunov, Avtomobilist drew level.
Two power play goals in quick succession decided the game in the second period. First, Jokerit’s Max Warn took a minor and Ivan Vishnevsky sent Nigel Dawes through to grab the go-ahead goal. Then, in a rare passage of 4-on-3 play, Kovar had the vision to release Sexton and the American forward’s electric pace took him through the visiting defense to make it 3-1.
Kovar distinguished himself in more conventional fashion in the final frame as Jokerit pushed for a way back into the game. The Finns topped the shot count 14-4 but could not beat the Czech goalie, who made 39 saves on the night.
Metallurg wasted little time in taking control of its home game against HC Sochi, scoring twice in the first four minutes to build a lead that proved to be unassailable.
The home team’s foreign legion made the early contribution: first, Iiro Pakarinen opened the scoring after 69 seconds; next, recently-signed Czech center Michal Bulir got his second for the club and the second of this game on 3:09. Bulir, playing on the first line with Sergei Mozyakin and Matt Ellison, converted a pass from his captain to beat Konstantin Barulin. That was the end of Barulin’s evening – called to the bench after just 189 seconds on the ice to be replaced by Dmitry Shikin.
Sochi got a goal back through Damir Rakhimullin in the 13th minute. That was the 20-year-old’s third goal of the season, but it did not spark a fightback. Instead, the youngster was ejected from the game midway through the second period after he took our Bulir. Magnitka made the win safe in the final stanza with a goal from Roman Lyubimov and a power play effort from Ellison.
There was a Hallowe’en cliffhanger in Nizhnekamsk, where Dynamo snatched victory just two seconds before the end of overtime. Ilya Nikulin grabbed the goal, converting a power play after Adam Polasek took a minor for boarding.
At the start of the evening, though, it looked like turning into a nightmare for the visitor. Dmitry Kagarlitsky was sin-binned after 35 seconds and Joonas Nattinen took advantage to give Neftekhimik an early lead. Andrei Sergeyev doubled that advantage after five minutes and the Blue-and-Whites continued to encounter penalty trouble.
In adversity, though, the visitor rallied. Vladimir Bryukvin reduced the arrears with a short-handed goal before Artyom Volkov tied it up on the PP midway through the second period. Kagarlitsky atoned for that early penalty by putting Dynamo up for the first time at the start of the third, but there was another twist on the way as Juuso Puustinen got the home team back on level terms and took the game into overtime.
Vityaz remains in the playoff places after seeing off the challenge of Amur. Two first-period goals from Miro Aaltonen – the second from a penalty shot – set the tone for this one, with Vityaz opening a lead that it would never relinquish.
Amur, in danger of dropping out of contention in the East, rallied in the second period and threatened to make a game of it when Igor Rudenkov halved the deficit. It wasn’t long before Vityaz had its two-goal cushion back in place, however, with Borna Rendulic’s power play goal making it 3-1. Alexander Semin completed the scoring late on.
The win moves Vityaz to 21 points, level with Dinamo Riga and Dynamo Moscow. The three teams straddle the cut-off point for the play-off places; Vityaz is currently seventh, Moscow ninth.