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SKA held on to top spot in the Western Conference, but it took a third-period fightback to erase a 0-3 deficit and set up an overtime win at home to Severstal. Metallurg also had to come back, recovering from 1-3 to beat Neftekhimik in a shoot-out. Devante Smith-Pelly, a star in the Capitals’ Stanley Cup run, scored his first in the KHL for Kunlun Red Star in a 4-0 win over Admiral. Maxim Mamin was also among the goals, getting a hat-trick in CSKA’s victory in Riga. There were also triumphs for Sibir, Avtomobilist, Lokomotiv and Jokerit on a busy day of action after the international break.

Smith-Pelly scores his first in the KHL

Kunlun Red Star 4 Admiral Vladivostok 0 (2-0, 2-0, 0-0)

Devante Smith-Pelly’s first goal in the KHL set the seal on an impressive victory for the Dragons. The win moves Red Star into the top eight of the Eastern Conference while Admiral slips out of the playoff places.

Kunlun dominated the first two periods of this game, opening a 4-0 lead. Spencer Foo scored a fine goal to open the scoring, then Olli Palola potted his third in two games to convert the home team’s first power play. Another PP chance early in the second session saw Andrew Miller extend the lead before Smith-Pelly raced through for a short-handed goal midway through the game.

After that, Red Star dropped the tempo. The teams will meet again in Beijing tomorrow and the emphasis was on securing a shut-out for Jeremy Smith and maximizing the team’s chances of securing back-to-back wins.

Kovar denies Amur

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 Amur Khabarovsk 0 (2-0, 1-0, 0-0)

Amur travelled to Yekaterinburg without leading scorer Tomas Zohorna (appendicitis) and head coach Alexander Gulyavtsev. The latter’s absence was confirmed just an hour before the game. Avtomobilist, meanwhile, was without Nigel Dawes but welcomed Pavel Datsyuk back to the team.

The home team opened the scoring in the third minute, converting its first power play of the evening. Anatoly Golyshev got the goal to move on to 178 points and match Alexei Simakov’s club record. Evgeny Mozer then doubled the lead midway through the opening frame.

Amur refused to roll over: over the course of the evening Jakub Kovar would make 35 saves to secure his shut-out. But the visitor was destined for a frustrating time of it. Brooks Macek added a third midway through the second period and the Motormen closed out the win.

Milovzorov gives Sibir the edge

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 2 Sibir Novosibirsk 3 (0-1, 1-2, 1-0)

Yegor Milovzorov led the way with two goals for Sibir as his team moved up to sixth in the Eastern Conference. With the playoff race in the East so tight, every game is vital for teams like Sibir as they battle to keep in the top eight.

Photo: 17.12.19. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) - Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)

Milovzorov also had a hand in Sibir’s opener, setting up Dmitry Sayustov late in the opening frame. He extended the lead at the start of the second period, but Ufa pulled one back midway through the game when Philip Larsen scored on the power play. Salavat Yulaev came close to tying the scores, with only the crossbar saving visiting goalie Harri Sateri, but the visitor extended its lead in the 35th minute when Milovzorov struck again. Vladislav Kartayev got one back for the host, but the best news for Ufa was the safe return of Teemu Hartikainen and Pavel Koledov after injury.

The game ended with a flurry of plush toys thrown from the tribunes. The gesture, organized in conjunction with Artemy Panarin’s charitable fund, was part of an evening dedicated to raising finance for a seriously ill child in Ufa and collecting gifts for local children’s homes ahead of the festive season.

Kozun celebrates return to fitness

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 3 SO (1-2, 2-1, 0-0, 0-0, 1-0)

Metallurg clawed back a 1-3 deficit thanks to two goals in a minute late in the second period. That set the home team on the road to a shoot-out victory as Neftekhimik lost ground on the playoff places.

Magnitka welcomed back Sergei Mozyakin after injury, but was still without goalie Vasily Koshechkin, hurt against Traktor before the international break. More significantly, though, Brandon Kozun made his first appearance since Nov. 3 and finished the game by scoring the decisive attempt in the shoot-out.

That came after a lively battle between two teams scrapping for a place in the top eight. Neftekhimik made the brighter start. Damir Sharipzyanov and Marat Khairullin found the net in the first period, with an Andrej Nestrasil goal in reply coming between them. Matt White added a third midway through the game, and the visitor looked well placed to go on and win.

That all changed in the 37th minute. First, Kozun led an odd-man rush and lifted his pass over a sprawling defenseman for Denis Parshin to score at the far post. Then, 26 seconds later, Maksim Matushkin tied the game. The remainder of the action was goalless, and Vasily Demchenko remained unbeaten in the shoot-out as Kozun secured the win for Magnitka.

Jokerit’s late show defeats Dynamo

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

Jokerit enjoyed four straight wins before the international pause – but left it late before maintaining that record here in Moscow.

Photo: 17.12.19. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Dynamo (Moscow) - Jokerit (Helsinki)

The Finns dominated the first period but could not find a way to score on Ivan Bocharov and get the lead their performance deserved. In the middle frame, the Blue-and-Whites were a much more competitive proposition, but once again the goalies had the all the answers as Janis Kalnins found himself more involved in the game.

A power play goal from Ivan Igumnov in the 53rd minute looked like it was going to be enough for Dynamo, but in the last minute Veli-Matti Savinainen tied the scores. That set up overtime and Viktor Loov got the decisive goal as Jokerit recorded its third successive victory over the Muscovites.

Fast start sets Spartak on road to big win

Spartak Moscow 6 Vityaz Moscow Region 0 (3-0, 2-0, 1-0)

When these teams last met, Spartak’s win in Podolsk was something of a surprise for a Vityaz team chasing top spot in the KHL table. Today, though, the Red-and-What dominated from the start against an opponent in poor recent form. Vityaz lost forward Miro Aaltonen to SKA last week and that bright start to the season is fast becoming a distant memory.

Photo: 17.12.19. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Spartak (Moscow) - Vityaz (Moscow Region)

Spartak made a fast start to the game, with Mikhail Yunkov scoring after 11 seconds. That’s the fastest goal in the KHL this season and Vityaz never recovered. It was 3-0 at the first break, Dmitry Vishnevsky and Artyom Fyodorov adding to the goals. Fyodorov and Robin Hanzl scored twice in a minute in the second period and Kaspars Daugavins wrapped up with another goal midway through the third.

For Vityaz, special teams were a problem. Three of Spartak’s goals came on the power play and another arrived on the PK. There’s little doubt that Oleg Znarok is steadily forging a highly competitive team in this corner of Moscow.

Big comeback for SKA

SKA St. Petersburg 4 Severstal Cherepovets 3 OT (0-2, 0-1, 3-0, 1-0)

SKA roared back into this game in the third period, recovering a 0-3 deficit before going on to win it in overtime.

The host handed a debut to new signing Miro Aaltonen and welcomed back defenseman Lukas Bengtsson after a long injury lay-off. But it was Severstal that made the early impact, going up 2-0 in the first period. Vadim Kudako and Vladislav Kodola were the scorers, with both goals coming down the SKA right. Midway through the second period, Makar Khabarov made it 3-0, ending Magnus Hellberg’s evening.

However, Severstal was relying on 19-year-old rookie Konstantin Shostak between the piping. For 40 minutes, the youngster did well, stopping all 29 of the shots that came his way. But in the third period, SKA found a way past him. Anton Burdasov scored early in the frame, Vladimir Tkachyov made it 2-3 and there was a certain inevitability about SKA’s eventual equalizer, scored by the returning Bengtsson. Maxim Karpov completed the fightback in the 63rd minute.

Markov ends Minsk’s fightback

Dinamo Minsk 2 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3 OT (0-1, 0-1, 2-0, 0-1)

There was also a fightback in Minsk, but Dinamo was unable to finish the job and defeat Lokomotiv despite clawing back two goals in the third period. Instead, veteran defenseman Andrei Markov got the winner, claiming his first goal for Loko in only his second appearance for the club.

Dinamo gave a debut to defenseman Mathew Maione, currently on a try-out contract in Belarus. His first big contribution was one to forget, though: he took a penalty midway through the first period and Pavel Kudryavtsev duly converted the power play. Artur Kayumov doubled the Railwaymen’s lead midway through the second period and that advantage remained until deep into the third.

However, Minsk responded late in the game. Andrei Kostitsyn pulled one back with Ryan Spooner among the assists for the third game in a row. Three minutes later, Alexander Kitarov tied the game and suddenly there was renewed hope in the arena. But in the end, Dinamo could only manage a single point; albeit, enough to move off the foot of the Western Conference.

Mamin dumps Riga to the foot of the table

Dinamo Riga 1 CSKA Moscow 4 (1-1, 0-2, 0-1)

Maxim Mamin hit a hat-trick to keep CSKA hard on the heels of conference leader SKA. Dinamo, meanwhile, slips to the foot of the Western Conference table after a loss at home to the defending champion.

However, for much of this game, Riga was competitive. Even after falling behind to Mamin’s first of the night, the Latvians produced some enterprising play and justly tied the game right on the hooter thanks to Carter Ashton. The early part of the second period saw more promising hockey from Dinamo but as the game wore on, CSKA got on top. Maxim Shalunov restored the lead, Mamin extended it and a 3-1 lead at the second intermission looked big enough for the Army Men.

It proved to be so, but Mamin wasn’t done. He added an empty-net goal late on to seal the win. His last five KHL goals have all come against Riga.

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