Christian Thomas, a one-time Rangers prospect now at Traktor, got his first goals in the KHL. The Olympic bronze medallist scored twice to help his new team defeat Neftekhimik. Among the leaders, SKA beat Severstal 6-1 to make it 22 consecutive wins against the Cherepovets team, while Ak Bars claimed a 3-2 win at Metallurg in the Eastern Conference. Avtomobilist lost for the fourth time in five games, and Ilya Konovalov starred in Lokomotiv’s 2-0 win over Dynamo.
Avtomobilist’s poor form continued with Torpedo inflicting a fourth loss in five games on the league leader. The old coaching adage holds that a goalie is half a team; in the absence of the injured Jakub Kovar, Avto doesn’t look like half the team it was before the international break.
To remedy the situation, the club has taken Andrei Makarov, previously at Neftekhimik, off waivers. That deal was not done in time for today’s game, though, so Vladimir Sokhatsky continued between the piping. He was beaten in the 16th minute by an apparently undemanding shot from Yury Sergiyenko as the home team’s headaches refused to lift.
On the bright side, Avtomobilist’s offense is still potent. Nigel Dawes produced a superb pass to set up Stephane Da Costa for the tying goal just before the first intermission. After that, though, it was all downhill. Da Costa’s error presented Vladimir Galuzin with the puck and he fed Andrew Calof to make it 2-1 to Torpedo in the second period. Denis Barantsev added a third in the final stanza.
Neftekhimik was looking to return to the playoff places ahead of Kunlun Red Star, but the scoring touch that crushed Avtomobilist in the previous game deserted it today.
Traktor got the win thanks to two goals from new Canadian forward Christian Thomas. The Olympic bronze medalist, who joined from Sweden’s Rogle BK, had picked up two assists in his first four games for the club. He got his first KHL goal when he stuffed home a rebound to open the scoring in this game after just three minutes.
Neftekhimik replied through Rafael Bikmullin but Thomas potted his second of the game in the middle frame and Igor Polygalov stretched the lead to 3-1 before the second intermission. Ildar Shiksatdarov threatened to make a game of it when he pulled one back seven minutes from time, but Traktor held on for the win.
This clash of the heavyweights in the Eastern Conference began with the visitor jumping to a 2-0 lead. Artyom Mikheyev opened the scoring in the second minute and Jiri Sekac added a second in the 15th. The Czech enjoyed a stroke of good fortune: his attempted pass did not come off but Alexei Bereglazov’s attempts to clear sent the puck into his own net.
Metallurg got back into the game on the power play with a Mozyakin goal just before the intermission. It was a characteristic finish from the KHL’s record scorer and it ended a wholly uncharacteristic 10-game streak without a goal. In the second period, Kulemin tied the scores, making it nine goals from seven games for him. However, the game-winner went to Lukoyanov when he converted Andrei Markov’s feed.
Lokomotiv enjoyed a second shut-out victory over Dynamo this season and young goalie Ilya Konovalov blanked the opposition for the fourth time in this campaign.
The 20-year-old goalie – as yet undrafted by the NHL – stopped 25 shots to frustrate the Blue-and-Whites with another display likely to catch the eye of the scouts searching for the next big Russian netminder.
At the other end, Andrei Loktionov made the difference between the teams. After a goalless first period he broke the deadlock early in the second then made the points safe with an empty-netter. Dynamo missed the chance to return to a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
There are few certainties in sport, but SKA beating Severstal might be one of them. This comprehensive victory in Cherepovets was the Petersburg team’s 22nd consecutive win against the Steelmen, a run dating back to November 2012.
The 6-1 margin might have been greater, too. SKA rattled up five of those goals inside the first half-hour before Alexander Shcherbina got the home team on the board at last. That was the first time in three games that Severstal had managed to score on SKA; the visitor’s domination was all-too apparent.
Vasily Tokranov put SKA ahead midway through the first period, then the visitor rattled in four goals early in the second. Tokranov assisted as Nail Yakupov made it 2-0, Sergei Plotnikov converted a power play, Maxim Karpov marked his 300th game with an assist as Nikita Gusev moved to the top of the scoring charts and Vladislav Gavrikov made it 5-0. Goalie Alexei Artamkin, in only his third appearance of the season, left the ice at that point.
Shcherbina at least put a stop to SKA’s scoring procession but his goal could hardly affect the outcome. Alexander Barabanov added a sixth as Ilya Vorobyov’s team kept up the pressure on CSKA at the top of the Western Conference.