Andy Potts Andy Potts
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The big game in the Western Conference saw Jokerit and Dynamo go to overtime before Vadim Shipachyov gave the visitor a 4-3 win. At the other end of the table, Slovan and Severstal ended long losing runs with wins over Torpedo and Spartak respectively. In the Eastern Conference, Avtomobilist’s win over Avangard saw it return to the top of the overall KHL table, while Ak Bars slipped to a third loss in four when it went down at Sochi.

Avto back on top

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 Avangard Omsk 2 (2-0, 0-1, 1-1)

Avtomobilist returned to the top of the KHL standings with a hard-fought victory over Avangard in the Eastern Conference’s game of the day. Two points here moves Avto to 71 points, one better than Western Conference leader CSKA.

Photo: 26.12.18. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg) - Avangard (Omsk)

The early stages went smoothly for the home team. Stephane Da Costa opened the scoring after 36 seconds, then Nigel Dawes robbed Ville Pokka of the puck and set up Anatoly Golyshev for the 2-0 goal. Dawes has now picked up at least one point in each of the last nine games and remains out in front in the scoring race this season.

However, Avangard is working to ensure top spot in the Chernyshev Division and the visitor battled back into the game. By the 41stminute, the scores were level: Sergei Shirokov and Ilya Mikheyev had the Hawks in flight. Avtomobilist rallied, though, and delivered the decisive blow three minutes from time when Artyom Gareyev redirected an Ivan Vishnevsky shot for the winning goal.

Sibir ends its Ufa jinx

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1 Sibir Novosibirsk 2 (0-0, 0-2, 1-0)

Sibir got a rare victory in Ufa, snapping a run of five straight losses in the Bashkir capital. The result also gets the Siberians back on track after back-to-back defeats and keeps the team’s playoff prospects alive.

The damage was done in the second period as the visitor potted two unanswered goals to build an unassailable lead. Shane Prince collected assists on both of them as Dmitry Sayustov and Jukka Peltola found the net.

Salavat Yulaev, whose patchy recent form has seen the team drop to sixth in the Eastern Conference, recovered some ground in the third period. However, a Dmitry Kugryshev goal four minutes from time was not enough to salvage anything from this game.

Traktor strengthens its playoff push

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

Traktor tightened its grip on a playoff spot in the East, moving four points clear of Kunlun thanks to a battling win against Dinamo Minsk. With the home team starting to see players return from injury – Swedish forward Alexander Bergstrom returned today after missing two months – there are good grounds for optimism about the New Year in the southern Urals.

Dinamo also had reasons to be cheerful. Despite struggling in the Western Conference, Andrei Sidorenko’s team had won its last three games and sensationally beat Ak Bars last time out. However, after a goalless first period the visitor fell behind to a Jonas Enlund goal early in the second. The reply came just before the half-hour mark as Dmitry Buinitsky tied the scores.

With everything to play for in the final stanza, Traktor emerged victorious. Alexander Sharov got the decisive goal in the 52nd minute, snapping a two-game losing streak and lifting his team further ahead of the chasing pack in this season’s playoff race.

Bilyalov denies Neftekhimik

Dinamo Riga 2 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 0 (0-0, 0-0, 2-0)

This clash between two teams desperately looking to close the gap on the playoff places was a tense, nervy affair across two scoreless period. However, Riga took the initiative in the third to claim a third win in five games and move to within four points of eighth-placed Vityaz.

Photo: 26.12.18. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Dinamo (Riga) - Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)

The first period was a frustrating affair, with neither team able to get its offense into gear. In the second session things improved, and Neftekhimik was left wondering how it had failed to take the lead after topping the shot count 18-9. Timur Bilyalov, in the Dinamo goal, was having a great game and that gave his team a platform to take the win.

In the end, it was classic ‘rope-a-dope’ stuff. Neftekhimik attacked and attacked, Dinamo bided its time and launched a couple of devastating counter blows. Rihards Marenis broke the deadlock in the 51st minute – the 25-year-old forward’s only previous KHL goal came earlier this season when Dinamo played at Neftekhimik. Then veteran defenseman Kristaps Sotnieks sealed the deal three minutes later, emerging from the penalty box to make it 2-0. Bilyalov finished with 42 saves, Riga won it off 18 shots on Fyodor Korotayev.

Worries continue for defending champion

HC Sochi 3 Ak Bars Kazan 1 (1-0, 1-1, 1-0)

After making serene progress up the Eastern Conference table, Gagarin Cup holder Ak Bars has hit something of a road block. Today’s game in Sochi brought a third loss in four games as the home team avenged a 1-5 drubbing in Kazan earlier in the season.

Things went against the visitor from the start. Ak Bars had to kill three penalties in the first period – and then promptly allowed a short-handed goal from Denis Mosalyov to separate the teams at the intermission.

In the second period, Artyom Lukoyanov tied the scores with a short-handed goal of his own. Just as it seemed that power plays were a disadvantage in this game, Sochi got it right to restore the lead through Stanislav Bocharov. Early in the third, Ak Bars found itself two men down. Despite killing the penalties and returning to equal strength, the visitor conceded a second after its players returned to the ice. Nikita Shchitov’s long-range effort was not, technically, a power play goal … but it’s hard to argue that Justin Azevedo and Albert Yarullin had much chance to help their team-mates in the second between the box opening and the puck hitting the net.

Cerveny ends Slovan’s losing streak

Slovan Bratislava 5 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 4 SO (1-0, 0-3, 3-1, 0-0, 1-0)

In a difficult season for Slovan, the contribution of 29-year-old forward Rudolf Cerveny has been one of the high points. The Czech had 20 (10+10) points going into today’s game and, following the departure of Michal Repik to Vityaz, is the second-highest scorer at the club. Today he produced the shoot-out winner that snapped a 13-game losing streak.

This was a Slovan performance full of character. Down 3-1 at the second intermission, the home team hit back in the third with goals from Kyle Chipchura, Chad Rau and Lukas Klok to lead 4-3 with less than four minutes to play. Even so, it might all have been in vain: Torpedo tied it up late on when Mikhail Orlov got his second of the game and the visitor proceeded to have the better of the overtime period.

However, Jakub Stepanek kept his team alive in the extras and the shoot-out saw Cerveny deliver the game-winner. Slovan’s long losing run began with a 4-1 loss away to Torpedo; can today’s win against the same opponent herald a lasting change in fortune for the Slovak team?

First win in six for Severstal

Severstal Cherepovets 4 Spartak Moscow 2 (1-0, 1-0, 2-2)

Slovan wasn’t the only team at the foot of the Western Conference to pick up a win. Severstal remains one point clear of last place thanks to victory over Spartak.

After losing five in a row coming into this game, Severstal needed a strong start. An opening goal in the third minute from Ivan Nikolishin was just what the doctor ordered and home hopes got a further boost when Alexei Mikhnov doubled the lead on 33 minutes.

But teams at the foot of the table often lack for confidence. When Yury Trubachyov made it 3-0, that should have been game over. Instead, it was the cue for a Spartak fightback. Kaspars Daugavins and Ben Maxwell hauled it back to 2-3 and Severstal nerves were jangling until Igor Geraskin potted a fourth goal late on to settle the outcome.

Shipachyov sinks Jokerit

Jokerit Helsinki 3 Dynamo Moscow 4 OT (0-1, 2-1, 1-1, 0-1)

In-form Dynamo brought a four-game winning streak to Finland as it sought to tighten its grip on a playoff place. In a hard-fought game, the Blue-and-Whites prevailed thanks to Vadim Shipachyov’s overtime winner, while Jokerit was frustrated by Ivan Bocharov in the Muscovites’ net. Bocharov made 40 saves, including a game-saver in the last minute of regulation to deny Sami Lepisto.

The visitor made a fast start, with Miks Indrasis opening the scoring in the third minute off an assist from Ruslan Karlin. The latter was making his Dynamo debut after arriving from Severstal yesterday. However, Jokerit had more of the game in the first period and was perhaps unfortunate to trail at the intermission.

Early in the second, Dynamo extended its lead through Dmitry Moiseyev’s second goal in three games. That prompted a Jokerit revival. The home team killed a 3-on-5 situation before Viktor Loov reduced the deficit. Then it was 5-on-3 in the Finns’ favor and Sakari Manninen tied the game in the second session. The home team continued to create the bulk of the chances and it looked like Jokerit would go on to win after John Norman made it 3-2 on a delayed penalty with 10 minutes left. Manninen’s assist on that gave him a contribution to all three of his team’s goals.

Dynamo, though, had other ideas. The potent Shipachyov-Kagarlitsky combination clicked once again for Dmitry Kagarlitsky to tie the game and overtime brought Shipachyov’s winner.

Metallurg’s winning start in Switzerland

Trinec Ocelari 1 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2 SO (0-0, 1-0, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1)

Metallurg flew to Davos to contest this year’s Spengler Cup, one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious invitational tournaments. The Steelmen began against Trinec of the Czech Republic, and edged a narrow verdict after a shoot-out.

Maxim Matushkin got Magnitka’s tying goal in the third period to take the game to the extras. Roman Lyubimov claimed the shoot-out winner. Later this evening, the host club, HC Davos, takes on a Canadian representative team.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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