Leonids Beresnevs got his first victory behind the bench for HC Sochi, leading his team to success in Vladivostok. After an eight-game losing streak that saw Sergei Zubov lose his job as head coach, the result puts the Leopards in touching distance of eighth place. Admiral, meanwhile, slips to a fourth straight loss and remains sixth in the Eastern Conference.
Recent form notwithstanding, Sochi started at a fast tempo. The opening frame saw the visitor on the front foot, out-shooting Admiral 17-7 and opening the scoring through Sergei Shmelyov late in the frame. Soon after the intermission, it got better: Dmitry Arkhipov showed superb technique as he danced through the home defense to score Sochi’s second of the night.
Hopes of a home fightback were lifted late in the second period when Ivan Mishchenko got his first of the season to reduce the deficit. But the final frame saw the Sochi PK twice thwart Admiral before Ilya Krikunov’s 100th KHL goal sealed the verdict for the visitor.
As one team shows signs of putting its early-season crisis behind it, so another looks to be lurching towards a serious slump. Metallurg’s win here did not just see the Steelmen overtake Avtomobilist, it pushed the Motormen out of the playoff places and lifted Ilya Vorobyov’s men to eighth in the table. Suddenly, Magnitka’s fans have evidence that the worst is over, with their heroes recording a fifth successive victory and making it three shut outs in a row. In Yekaterinburg, though, a six-game losing streak piles the pressure on Andrei Martemyanov and a team expected to be challenging at the top of the Eastern Conference this season.
The contrast in recent form was clear: while Metallurg had not allowed a goal for almost 132 minutes, Avtomobilist had scored just twice in the previous 120. And even though the host had the better of the play in the first period, it was the visitor that edged in front with a power play goal from Alexei Bereglazov late in the session. That pattern continued in the middle frame. Avtomobilist attacked, Metallurg defended, but when the chance arrived it came to Magnitka. This time a hurried clearance from Jakub Kovar went to Dennis Rasmussen on the boards and he sent Brandon Kozun through to make it 2-0.
In the third period, Avtomobilist raised the tempo and put more pressure on Vasily Koshechkin’s net. But Magnitka had no need to seek more goals and could focus solely on defense. Thus, Avto was unable to reduce the deficit and ended up allowing a third. Kozun fed Rasmussen for a shot which Maksim Matushkin deflected beyond the reach of Kovar to complete the scoring.
Kunlun Red Star pulled off a big shock in the Eastern Conference, blanking Avangard to claim its first ever road win against its Chernyshev Division rival. Goalie Jeremy Smith made 34 saves – several of which had even the home team’s Twitter feed purring at the American’s performance – while two new signings debuted on defense and made significant contributions to the Dragons’ success.
Griffin Reinhart led his team in blocked shots as Red Star neutralized a lively home offense, while Ryan Sproul’s sliding save with his outstretched skate late in the second period preserved Smith’s second shut-out of the season and denied Avangard a way back into the game after the home team went 2-0 behind.
At the other end, after a slow start, Kunlun began to ask questions of its host in the second period. A couple of uncharacteristic errors from Slava Voynov showed the visitor the way to goal, and Jason Fram followed up with the opening goal in the 27th minute. A second goal followed midway through the game when Trevor Murphy’s thunderbolt from the blue line ripped past Alexander Sudnitsin.
Fram scored again in the third period, with David Bondra collecting his second assist of the night. The 24-year-old defenseman, one of many Chinese heritage players hoping that Red Star might light the path to a role on China’s Olympic roster, had not scored in his previous eight KHL games but produced a game-winning contribution tonight. At the other end, Smith continued to stop everything that came his way, denying Sven Andrighetto and Cody Franson in the closing stages to ensure that not even a consolation goal would lift Avangard’s mood.
Dinamo Riga moved off the foot of the KHL table thanks to a comeback victory in Minsk. The result sees the two teams swap places after the home team slipped to a seventh successive loss.
The Belarusians began well enough, taking the lead in the sixth minute. Marc-Andre Gragnani’s shot popped up off Alexander Salak, and Evgeny Kovyrshin was on hand to bat it into the net. A video review confirmed that there was no high stick involved, and the home team had the lead.
However, Riga is no longer a team apt to fold under pressure. Boosted by three wins in its last four games, the Latvians knew there was a way back from that. Even though Minsk had more of the play in the opening period, Riga tied the scores on the power play thanks to Lauris Darzins.
In the second period, the home team again started strongly, with Salak stopping a Shane Prince effort with his helmet. The Czech goalie was on top form once again as Minsk continued to have the better of the game, and his efforts were rewarded at the other end late in the frame when Daniels Berzins scored with practically his team’s first chance of the session. The final stanza saw Salak again in impressive form as he finished with 36 saves to backstop Riga’s win.