The first gameday of 2019 brought an exciting game in Kazan, where Ak Bars needed overtime to defeat Avangard 4-3. There were more close encounters in Shanghai and Moscow where Admiral and Barys both came from behind to collect 3-2 road wins. In Helsinki, Jokerit eased to a 4-1 success against Sibir.
Three goals in five minutes early in the second period saw Admiral make a winning start to 2019 and climb ahead of Severstal in the overall KHL standings. Red Star was left ruing missed chances early on as it missed the chance to return to the top eight in the Eastern Conference.
The host started well, dominating the first period and going in front thanks to a Sam Lofquist goal after nine minutes. The American defenseman, making his home debut for Red Star, marked the occasion by scoring the first KHL goal of the New Year.
Admiral struck back after the intermission with three quick markers. Konstantin Glazachev and Denis Vikharev had a goal and an assist apiece, then Alexander Chernikov’s 200th KHL point set up Vasily Streltsov for a short-handed goal to take the game away from the host. Olli Palola’s neat finish just before the second intermission kept the outcome alive but there was no further scoring in the third period.
Barys clawed back a 2-0 deficit in Moscow to move level on points with Avangard at the top of the Chernyshev Division. The Kazakh team has played four games fewer than its rival, though.
Although Spartak had the better of the first period, the home team was only able to get ahead thanks to a short-handed goal. Robin Hanzl and Artyom Voronin sprinted away on the odd man rush, with the latter shooting past Dominik Hrachovina. Midway through the second frame, the host doubled its lead on the power play through Anatoly Nikontsev.
Barys battled back. Kevin Dallman reduced the arrears before the second intermission and third-period goals from Roman Starchenko and Darren Dietz ensured the visitor began the New Year with both points. Spartak remains fifth in the Western Conference.
There was no sign of any New Year hangover in Kazan, where both teams made a bright start in a thrilling game.
The early exchanges brought three goals: Rob Klinkhammer had a goal and an assist as Ak Bars jumped 2-0 in front before Taylor Beck’s first tally since joining Avangard from Kunlun halved the deficit. All that, and not even 10 minutes played. The game continued at a high tempo, although both teams found goals harder to come by after that opening blitz.
In the latter half of the second stanza, the rivals traded goals. Vladislav Kara made it 3-1 for Ak Bars, only for Evgeny Medvedev to claw it back to 2-3. A late tying goal from Ville Pokka forced overtime before Jiri Sekac handed the host the win. An absorbing game was great for the fans – but the gruelling battle was hardly what Ak Bars wanted: on Friday, the Kazan team welcomes Salavat Yulaev to the Tatneft Arena for another big battle in the East.
Jokerit started 2019 with a convincing home victory over Sibir, stretching its current streak to three successive wins and tightening its grip on third place in the Western Conference.
Alex Grant got the opener in this one, going coast-to-coast before beating Danny Taylor to convert Jokerit’s first power play of the night. However, Sibir tied it up early in the second period when Tampere native Jukka Peltola potted his second goal in three games.
Undaunted, Jokerit hit back. Two goals in 63 seconds took the home team into the second intermission with a 3-1 advantage. Brian O’Neill got the first of them – Kristian Vesalainen’s helper took his productive streak to four games – before Niklas Jensen scored for the third game in a row. John Norman completed the scoring late in the third.