Andy Potts Andy Potts
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A second-period storm led Jokerit to a big win over SKA in Helsinki as the first game day of the New Year produced plenty of action. That was the highlight of nine games on Friday. Traktor was another big winner, getting a 6-1 verdict at Torpedo, while Dinamo Minsk moved off the foot of the table after winning at Severstal to end a long losing streak. Brandon McMillan was one of several players to score for their new clubs, getting the opener as Avangard beat Admiral 4-1. There were game-winning performances from goalies Alexander Lazushin and Ivan Bocharov as Loko and Dynamo picked up shut-out wins; Konstantin Barulin was also a big part of Neftekhimik’s 2-1 success at Sibir. Early in the day, a capacity crowd in Magnitogorsk saw Metallurg edge Avtomobilist 3-2, Vityaz won its game at Spartak.

Barulin leads Neftekhimik to victory

Sibir Novosibirsk 1 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 2 (0-0, 1-1, 0-1)

Neftekhimik stayed in touch with the playoff places in the Eastern Conference thanks to this win at Sibir. Victory puts the 10th-placed team within three points of Salavat Yulaev in eighth, albeit Vyacheslav Butsayev’s men have played more games than most of the teams around them.

The win in Novosibirsk owed much to Konstantin Barulin’s goaltending. He made 27 stops in a tight game and was beaten just once, by a power play effort from Alexander Loginov in the 24th minute. That goal cancelled out Matt White’s short-handed opener for the visitor and the game remained deadlocked despite Sibir having the better of the middle frame.

However, the final stanza saw Neftekhimik get the vital goal. Jacob Berglund led the breakaway, Pavel Padakin converted the chance and the game went to the visitor.

Metallurg edges Ural derby

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 2 (1-1, 2-0, 0-1)

A capacity crowd welcomed in the New Year at the Metallurg Arena with the visit of Ural rival Avtomobilist offering an attractive start to 2020. The home team needed the support as it looked for some breathing space in a frantic race for a playoff spot.

However, it wasn’t the happiest start to the new year for many in the crowd as they saw Alexei Vasilevsky fire home the opening goal in the fifth minute with a shot that sneaked over Vasily Koshechkin’s shoulder. It might have been 2-0 soon afterwards, but the officials spotted an infringement by Pavel Datsyuk as Avto got the puck in the net again.

Then came Nikolai Kulemin. First, he tied the game with a power play goal in the first. Next, he converted Andrei Loktionov’s pass from behind the net to give Metallurg the lead early in the second. As the home team turned the screws, Andrej Nestrasil added a third, making it five goals in six games for the Czech forward.

The third period saw Anatoly Golyshev pull a goal back for Avtomobilist halfway through, setting up a tense finale. But Magnitka held on, and the two points were worth three places in a congested Eastern Conference table.

McMillan opens his account for Avangard

Avangard Omsk 4 Admiral Vladivostok 1 (1-0, 1-0, 2-1)

Brandon McMillan got his first goal for Avangard following his move from Dinamo Riga, and that paved the way for a comfortable win at home to Admiral.

Photo: 03.01.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Avangard (Omsk) - Admiral (Vladivostok)

The Sailors struggled with delayed flights on the way to Balashikha and, in truth, rarely caught up with the opposition in this game. McMillan’s opening goal with the highlight of a first period that the host dominated and even when Admiral did gain a foothold in the second frame, Sergei Shumakov’s effort extended the home lead.

Sven Andrighetto extended the advantage on the power play early in the third and Semyon Ruchkin joined McMillan in getting his first goal for Avangard to make it 4-0. Ruchkin, 23, is a defenseman called up to the first team recently; this was his second appearance in the KHL. Martin Bakos got a late consolation goal for Admiral, but this ship had long since sailed.

Tkachyov on the mark for Loko

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2 Amur Khabarovsk 0 (0-0, 0-0, 2-0)

Amur came into this game on the back of a five-game winning streak – and it took a long time for Lokomotiv to find a way past the Tigers.

The first period saw Loko work up a head of steam, but the host could not find a way past Marek Langhamer. In the second, the balance of play changed, and Alexander Lazushin was by far the busier goalie. However, the score remained blank.

It wasn’t until the 56th minute that the deadlock was broken – and the clutch goal went to Magnus Paajarvi Svensson. The Swede managed to battle the puck into the net despite the attentions of two defensemen and his goal proved decisive. Vladimir Tkachyov got his first goal for Loko into an empty net in the last minute, sealing the win and snapping a three-game losing streak for Yaroslavl.

Traktor thrashes Torpedo

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 1 Traktor Chelyabinsk 6 (1-3, 0-0, 0-3)

Traktor enjoyed its best win of the season while Torpedo suffered its heaviest loss in a surprisingly one-sided encounter in Novgorod.

The game was effectively over inside eight minutes as Traktor blasted into a 3-0 lead. Lukas Sedlak needed just 20 seconds to open the scoring, assisted by former Torpedo man Andrew Calof. Then the Czech turned provider as Yaroslav Kosov increased the lead with a short-handed goal in the fifth minute. Alexander Avtsin added a third on 7:20 and Andrei Tikhomirov came into the game in place of starting goalie Anders Lindbak.

Torpedo managed to get one goal back when Stanislav Bocharov converted a power play late in the opening frame but there was never much sign of a big fightback. The second period was goalless and Traktor dominated the third to add another three goals. Artyom Mikheyev, Vyacheslav Osnovin (PP) and Alexander Sharov completed the scoring.

Minsk moves off the bottom

Severstal Cherepovets 2 Dinamo Minsk 3 (1-0, 1-1, 0-2)

Maybe 2020 will be a happier new year for fans in Belarus. Dinamo snapped a 12-game losing streak and moved off the foot of the KHL table with a battling performance to win at Severstal.

The home team moved into a 2-0 lead thanks to an early Kirill Kapustin goal and an effort in the second period from veteran Yury Trubachyov. But Minsk refused to buckle. Shane Prince quickly reduced the deficit when he completed a counter-attack and, throughout the game, the visitor showed the greater offensive intent.

The reward came in the final frame. Mikhail Stefanovich converted a pass from Evgeny Kovyrshin to tie the game after 42 minutes, then a Marc-Andre Gragnani point shot found the net via a string of deflections. That was enough to win it, despite a late surge from Severstal. Minsk moves ahead of Riga, one point clear at the foot of the table.

Malykhin scores on Spartak debut, Vityaz takes the verdict

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

Vityaz snapped a four-game losing streak, shrugging off the absence of star man Alexander Semin to win at Spartak.

Photo: 03.01.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Spartak (Moscow) - Vityaz (Moscow Region)

The visitor made a fast start, with Czech defenseman Jakub Jerabek opening the scoring after two minutes. However, Spartak got back into it when debutant Fyodor Malykhin converted a pass from Alexander Khokhlachyov, back in the team after missing the last game against Sochi. The first period ended with Ilya Zubov making it 2-1 and collecting his 250th regular season point in the KHL.

Despite Spartak’s attacking prowess in the opening session, there were question marks about the defense. And Vityaz showed that those worries were justified. Pavel Vorobei tied the game with a thunderous shot from the blue line. Home goalie Julius Hudacek had to be at his best to keep the game tied at 2-2 but even he was beaten early in the third when Danila Moiseyev converted his breakaway chance. That was enough to settle the outcome; Vityaz climbs one place to seventh.

Bocharov blanks the Dragons

Dynamo Moscow 2 Kunlun Red Star 0 (0-0, 1-0, 1-0)

Dynamo goalie Ivan Bocharov took the plaudits as he blanked the Dragons to get his team off to a winning start in 2020. He made 26 stops to frustrate a Red Star side that battled hard – especially in the third period – but could not force a way through.

Photo: 03.01.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Dynamo (Moscow) - Kunlun Red Star (Beijing)

Earlier, Andrei Alexeyev opened the scoring with a power play goal midway through the second period. The forward reacted fastest when Simon Hrubec blocked an Andrei Mironov slap shot. Hrubec, who also came up with several big stops, was beaten again the third period when Teemu Pulkkinen applied a deft redirect to a Michal Cajkovsky effort. Pulkkinen, a deadline day trade from Dinamo Minsk, got his first goal for his new employer.

Kunlun’s best chance to get back into the game arrived moments later but recent signing Hunter Shinkaruk somehow squeezed his shot wide after stand-in captain Vic Bartley served him a dish at the far post. Bartley wore the ‘C’ in place of Brandon Yip, who missed Friday’s game.

Jokerit hands SKA a hiding

Jokerit Helsinki 6 SKA St. Petersburg 0 (0-0, 5-0, 1-0)

A scintillating second period inspired Jokerit to a convincing victory over SKA, turning an even game into a procession for the Finns.

After a first period that saw little to choose between the teams, few could have expected how the home team would explode in the middle frame to blast five unanswered goals past Alexei Melnichuk. But that’s exactly what happened, with captain Peter Regin to the fore in a devastating display.

Regin’s line opened the scoring in the 25th minute, Brian O’Neill getting the goal with the Dane among the assists. Even then, there was little sign of what was to come. But Regin picked up the pace to make it 2-0 midway through the frame and SKA’s defense crumbled. Nobody picked up Steve Moses in center ice as he glided down the rink to make it 3-0, then power plays saw Regin get his second before Mikko Lehtonen made it 5-0 late in the frame.

That was the end for Melnichuk, replaced by Magnus Hellberg for the remainder of the game. It was not the end of SKA’s defensive frailties; the Swede was horribly exposed as Moses got his second of the night to add to his former club’s misery.

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