Avtomobilist forward Nigel Dawes extended his productive streak to eight games with the opening goal in Sunday’s 3-2 victory over Traktor. Elsewhere, Metallurg goalie Vasily Koshechkin posted his 300th KHL victory as Slovan’s winless streak reached 13 games. Vityaz boosted its playoff hopes with victory in China, but Kunlun missed the chance to return to the top eight in the East.
Vityaz recorded a sixth successive victory after coming from behind in Shanghai. Valery Belov’s team now looks well placed to reach the KHL playoffs for only the second time, enjoying a six-point advantage over ninth-placed Dinamo Riga.
Red Star is also battling to reach its second post season, but December has been a tough month for Jussi Tapola’s team and the Chinese outfit had just one victory in its previous nine games. In the early stages, though, the host threatened to turn the form book upside down with a positive performance that got its reward when Michael Latta stuffed home the puck after an Ondrej Vitasek point shot looped over Joni Ortio’s shoulder and caused chaos in front of the Vityaz net.
The visitor tied it up in the second period thanks to Yegor Voronkov and went ahead midway through the third when Alexander Yevseyenkov scored a well-worked breakaway goal. Nikita Vyglazov shot into an empty net to make it safe. Curiously, all of the Vityaz goalscorers got their first markers of the season.
Traktor came close to pulling off a huge fightback at Eastern Conference leader Avtomobilist, but came up just shot in an entertaining game.
For two periods, though, it was plain sailing for the host. Nigel Dawes opened the scoring in the fifth minute, stretching his productive streak to eight games and moving to 53 (22+31) points as he remains out in front in the scoring race. In the second period, Avto increased its lead. Dan Sexton made it 2-0 as Francis Pare got his second helper of the evening, then Nikita Tryamkin added a third.
At the start of the final session, Traktor hit back. Christian Thomas scored twice in five minutes to make it a one-goal game. First, the Canadian found a lovely backhand finish from a tight angle, then he took advantage of a mistake from Dawes to add a second. In between the visitor had a goal disallowed – the net was off its moorings before the shot came in. Under pressure, Avtomobilist managed just two shots in the period but Jakub Kovar did enough to prevent Traktor from forcing overtime.
Metallurg ensured that Slovan’s unhappy form continued, easing to victory in Bratislava. Visiting goalie Vasily Koshechkin secured his 300th win in the KHL, as Slovan slipped to a 13th successive loss.
The writing was on the wall early on for the Slovaks. Metallurg’s first power play of the game produced the first goal. Kyle Chipchura sat out a tripping call and Dennis Rasmussen duly converted the opportunity. Roman Lyubimov doubled the lead late in the opening frame and, with Magnitka 15-4 up on the shot count, it was difficult to see a way back for Vladimir Orszagh’s men.
To the home team’s credit, it found a way of making a contest of it in the second period. Slovan began getting more pucks to the net and the game was no longer a procession of Metallurg chances. Andrej Meszaros even managed to reduce the deficit in the 37thminute, only for Evgeny Timkin to deliver a killer blow on the stroke of the intermission. A Denis Platonov goal early in the final frame sealed the verdict for Magnitka.