Ak Bars extended its winning streak to seven games and Sibir lost for the eighth time in a row – but those stats hardly tell the story of a hard-fought battle for the league leader.
The first period was disrupted by a string of penalties, but Ak Bars looked the livelier of the two teams during a goalless opening frame. However, the second period started with Sibir taking the lead. Viktor Komarov’s goal might have been against the run of play, but it gave the visitor something to defend.
However, when Konstantin Alexeyev got a major penalty for kneeing, the home team was able to tie the game. Nikita Lyamkin was the scorer, getting his first goal of the season and taking the game into overtime. It took a shoot-out to win it, with Artyom Galimov claiming the winner to keep Ak Bars out in front on 51 points. For Sibir, this was the first point in November.
After setting a club record 10-game winning streak, Neftekhimik is enduring the flip side of the form chart. Today’s loss was the sixth in a row for Vyacheslav Butsayev’s team. Vityaz, too, knows all about the vagaries of form: once top of the KHL table, a long run of indifferent results has seen the Podolsk outfit drop into mid-table.
Today, though, goalie Igor Saprykin was the key man. He made 47 saves to backstop a hard-fought home win. Earlier in the season, the 27-year-old was third choice behind Ilya Ezhov and Alexander Samonov but after the latter moved to SKA, Saprykin began to see some action. This was his fifth appearance of the season and his first win.
Vityaz opened the scoring through Alexei Byvaltsev, who arrived from St. Petersburg as part of the Samonov trade. That power play strike was quickly cancelled out by Jacob Berglund and the game remained locked at 1-1 for the remainder of the 60 minutes, despite an increasingly dominant Neftekhimik offense.
In the extras, Vityaz managed to break the deadlock. Byvaltsev turned provider as Alexei Makeyev got the winning goal.
Rookie goalie Yaroslav Askarov is the latest youngster to make a big impression at SKA. The 17-year-old made his KHL debut today and took the win. Askarov has been a regular for SKA-Neva in the VHL and made the step up with little apparent difficulty. He made 23 saves in a game that remained live until the last seconds.
In addition to Askarov, this was a big game for Jarno Koskiranta. The Finn isn’t always the most heralded part of SKA’s offense, but he’s been part of this club for a long time and his three-point haul against Sochi reminded everyone of his qualities. He opened the scoring late in the first period and, after Sergei Shmelyov tied the game, provided an assist as Andrei Kuzmenko restored the lead. The roles were reversed for the 3-1 goal, with Koskiranta steering Kuzmenko’s feed into the net.
A 5-on-3 power play gave Sochi a chance to get back into it and Malte Stromwall’s goal ensured it was a one-goal game going into the third. But Askarov held firm to deny Sochi an equalizer and Sergei Plotnikov sealed the win with an empty-net effort.