Andy Potts Andy Potts
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It was a good day for the leading teams in the Eastern Conference, with victories for leader Avtomobilist and two of its closest rivals. Avto eased past Torpedo 5-1, Metallurg hit a purple patch in the second period to beat Neftekhimik 4-2 and Ak Bars won 5-3 at home to playoff chasing Traktor.

Ak Bars outlasts Traktor’s fightback

Ak Bars Kazan 5 Traktor Chelyabinsk 3 (2-1, 2-0, 1-2)

Ak Bars saw off a spirited Traktor performance in a game full of incident in Kazan.

Photo: 21.12.18. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Traktor (Chelyabinsk)

The defending champion started with a point to prove after allowing Magnitka to score a comeback win here two days earlier, and Danis Zaripov wasted no time in opening the scoring inside 30 seconds. Paul Szczechura tied it up on the power play, with a Christian Thomas assist, but the next Ak Bars infringement resulted in a short-handed goal for the host when Rafael Batyrshin found the net.

In the second period, goals from Jiri Sekac and promising youngster Vladislav Kara took Ak Bars to a 4-1 lead and seemed to have decided the outcome. Traktor, though, had other ideas. Semyon Kokuyov and Ryan Stoa hit back in the third, making it a one-goal game with five minutes to play. There were only 22 seconds remaining in the game when the host finally made it safe through Artyom Lukoyanov’s empty net goal. Traktor’s three-game winning streak comes to an end, but the Chelyabinsk team remains two points clear in eighth place. Kharlamov Division leader Ak Bars is five points behind Conference frontrunner Avtomobilist.

Metallurg’s goal blitz sinks Neftekhimik

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 2 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4 (0-0, 2-4, 0-0)

Neftekhimik’s playoff hopes suffered another blow as Metallurg inflicted a third successive loss on Andrei Nazarov’s team. Despite leading twice in the game, the host was undone when Magnitka scored three times in 70 seconds late in the second period to open a two-goal lead that proved too much for Neftekhimik to retrieve.

The first period was goalless but the home side was rather more active on offense in the opening exchanges. Those efforts appeared to pay off early in the second. Emil Galimov broke the deadlock early in the frame and even though Ivan Vereshchagin quickly tied the scores, Joonas Nattinen was on hand to restore Neftekhimik’s advantage.

But the game swung Metallurg’s way after the midway stage. A power play goal from Andrei Chibisov on 34:14 tied the scores; Magnitka kept its man advantage after the host was penalized for a separate ‘too many men’ offense in the build-up to the goal. That power play was also converted, with Viktor Antipin shooting home after good work from Sergei Mozyakin and Nikolai Kulemin. Back at full strength, Neftekhimik lasted just 12 seconds before Iiro Pakarinen made it 4-2 on 35:24, taking the game beyond the host’s reach.

Avto cruises past Torpedo

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 1 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 5 (0-1, 0-2, 1-2)

Eastern Conference leader Avtomobilist produced a commanding display on the road in Nizhny Novogord to ease to a 5-1 victory over the home team.

Photo: 21.12.18. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod) - Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg)

The visitor dominated the first period but had only a Dan Sexton tally midway through the session to show for its efforts. However, the lead grew in the middle frame. Stephane Da Costa added a power play goal and Francis Pare made it 3-0 late on.

Andrei Chibisov got an assist on that third goal and went on to score two more in the final session as Avto took complete control of proceedings. Alexander Kucheryavenko completed a hat-trick of helpers along the way, while Torpedo’s Andrew Calof potted a solitary consolation effort for the host.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Avtomobilist (Ekaterinburg) Avtomobilist (Ekaterinburg)
Ak Bars (Kazan) Ak Bars (Kazan)
Metallurg (Novokuznetsk) Metallurg (Novokuznetsk)
Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk) Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)
Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod) Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod)
Traktor (Chelyabinsk) Traktor (Chelyabinsk)
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