Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Oleg Znarok led his Spartak team to a third victory over SKA in the headline game of Tuesday’s card. Earlier, the big tussle in the East saw Ak Bars blank Metallurg to win 2-0 return to the top of the KHL table. Sibir and Kunlun Red Star had important victories in the race for a playoff spot, Admiral kept its bid alive with a hard-fought win at Torpedo and Dynamo maintained its impressive form, beating Amur 4-2. Traktor won 2-0 at Sochi.

Sharov settles a thriller in Yekaterinburg

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 Sibir Novosibirsk 4 OT (2-2, 0-1, 1-0, 0-1)

Sibir won a topsy-turvy game in Yekaterinburg to move ahead of Salavat Yulaev and go seventh in the Eastern Conference. Alexander Sharov made the difference with a power play goal late in overtime, snapping Sibir’s two-game losing run in a game that could have gone either way.

Photo: 07.01.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg) - Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)

Avtomobilist made a great start, jumping to a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes. Pavel Datsyuk opened the scoring and Nigel Dawes doubled the advantage with a power play tally in the ninth minute. But Sibir was level at the intermission thanks to a power play effort from Yegor Milovzorov and Viktor Komarov’s first goal since Dec. 6.

Midway through the second period Sibir went in front. A mistake on the blue allowed Sharov to lead a two-man breakaway; Juuso Puustinen converted the chance to chase Jakub Kovar from the net as Sibir took the lead for the first time in the game.

A power play goal from Anatoly Golyshev in the third period tied things up and sent the game to overtime. Sibir piled the pressure onto Avto during the extras and after Datsyuk took a tripping penalty, Sharov stepped up to convert the power play and win the game.

Shinkaruk on the scoresheet, Yip scores two

Dinamo Minsk 1 Kunlun Red Star 5 (0-0, 1-2, 0-3)

Hunter Shinkaruk got his first KHL goal as Red Star snapped a four-game losing streak in some style. The Dragons had failed to score in their previous two games, but the return of captain Brandon Yip helped to change all that.

Yip had an early chance but the first period ended goalless. Kunlun went ahead in the second when home goalie Mikhail Karnaukhov’s fluffed clearance helped Luke Lockhart grab a short-handed goal. Yip’s first of the game came a minute later after another defensive error, this time from Kirill Gotovets.

Dinamo pulled one back through Artyom Demkov and Red Star goalie Simon Hrubec made several big saves to preserve his team’s lead before Red Star settled the issue in the third. Shinkaruk’s shot was deflected on to Yip’s stick to make it 3-1, then the Canadian scored himself, gobbling up the rebound from an Ethan Werek shot to open his account in the KHL. Tyler Wong completed the rout late on.

Bilyalov blanks Metallurg

Ak Bars Kazan 2 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 0 (0-0, 1-0, 1-0)

For the third time in four games this season, Ak Bars got the better of Metallurg. Like all the clashes between these Eastern heavyweights this term, there wasn’t much between the teams. However, a shut-out from home goalie Timur Bilyalov – his eighth of an impressive season – tipped the scales in favor of the home team.

It says much about the nature of the game that Bilyalov made just 12 saves to record his latest blank. The Ak Bars defense took a strong grip on Magnitka’s forwards from the start and never relinquished it. And if the opening frame was even, the host gradually gained the upper hand and began to fashion the more telling openings.

Oleg Li was the first to capitalize. He opened the scoring in the 25th minute when he fired home a Mikhail Fisenko pass from behind the net. Then Justin Azevedo reached a landmark in his KHL career. The Canadian forward, who started in the league with Lev Prague’s Gagarin Cup final team back in 2013/14, collected his 200th assist when he helped Danis Zaripov make it 2-0 early in the third. Zaripov, of course, was part of the Metallurg team that denied Azevedo and Lev in 2014; in 2018 the pair were united as Ak Bars lifted the cup. Victory here returns the Kazan team to the top of the KHL table; dreams of a fourth title are very much alive in Tatarstan.

Admiral hangs on to snap losing run

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 1 Admiral Vladivostok 2 (0-2, 1-0, 0-0)

A fast start from Admiral set up this win, but it took plenty of character from the visitor to get the job done and stay within reach of the top eight in the East.

Admiral enjoyed itself in the first period, quickly moving into a 2-0 lead. Alexander Streltsov opened the scoring after just two minutes and Alexander Konnov doubled the advantage on the power play just four minutes later. However, Torpedo recovered from that early shock to take control of the game; by the first intermission the home team was 13-4 ahead on the shot count but had not yet found a way past Anton Krasotkin.

It wasn’t until midway through the second that Torpedo did find an answer. Anton Shenfeld was the scorer and the game was very much alive. Admiral thought it had a third goal, but a video review ruled that the shorthanded play was no good; a high stick in the build up cost the visitor on this occasion.

In the third period, Torpedo looked to take the game to the visitor but Krasotkin kept the home offense at bay. He received terrific support from his team-mates, who blocked 12 shots in the final frame to preserve that slender lead and end a five-game losing skid.

Znarok gets the better of SKA again

Spartak Moscow 3 SKA St. Petersburg 1 (2-1, 0-0, 1-0)

Oleg Znarok’s Spartak defeated his former club, SKA, for the third time this season. Two meetings in Petersburg ended in 3-2 verdicts for the Red-and-Whites and today Znarok masterminded another victory over his ex-employer, this time on home ice in Moscow.

Photo: 07.01.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Spartak (Moscow) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

The win owed much to goalie Julius Hudacek, who stopped 38 shots and kept SKA at bay in the second and third periods when the visitor threatened to dominate proceedings. By that stage, though, Spartak had already got in front and could afford to absorb some pressure in defense of that lead.

Fyodor Malykhin opened the scoring for the host midway through the first period. A power play gave Spartak the chance to pin SKA into its own end and Vishnevsky’s shot was deflected past Magnus Hellberg by Malykhin. SKA replied through Andrei Kuzmenko, but Spartak quickly restored its lead when Ilya Zubov’s pace took him away from the visiting defense to beat Hellberg.

Subsequently, the action was almost entirely at the other end. Over the latter two periods, SKA outshot Spartak 29-9 but encountered a disciplined home team determined to preserve its lead until the end. And, indeed, Spartak extended its advantage. Robin Hanzl got away from Nail Yakupov, burst into the visitor’s zone and slipped the puck home on the backhand to clinch a 3-1 verdict.

Dynamo outlasts battling Amur

Dynamo Moscow 4 Amur Khabarovsk 2 (2-0, 0-2, 2-0)

Dynamo’s impressive form continues, and the Blue-and-Whites made it seven wins from eight by overcoming Amur in Moscow. The only blemish on that recent run was a shoot-out loss at Metallurg and you have to go back to Dec. 4 to find the last time Vladimir Krikunov’s team was defeated in regulation.

Photo: 07.01.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Dynamo (Moscow) - Amur (Khabarovsk)

Amur, meanwhile, saw a five-game winning streak halted on Jan. 3 and this was its third loss of 2020. The powerful Dynamo first line opened the scoring in the fourth minute, with Vadim Shipachyov getting the goal off assists from Andre Petersson and Dmitrij Jaskin. Daniil Tarasov doubled the lead midway through the first frame.

However, Amur was not done. The visitor rallied in the middle stanza and tied the scores on goals from Vladislav Ushenin and Hynek Zohorna. The fightback proved to be in vain, though. Juuso Hietanen, the league’s top scoring defenseman, restored the lead with a power play goal early in the third and Semyon Pankratov got his first of the season to seal it late in the game.

Sochi can’t beat Galimov

HC Sochi 0 Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 (0-0, 0-1, 0-1)

Traktor is now just one point behind Amur at the foot of the Eastern Conference as its recent upturn continued with victory at Sochi. The home team, though, is fast losing touch with the playoff places in the West and showed little sign of bouncing back from a 1-7 loss at home to CSKA last time out.

There was no scoring in the first period, but Traktor dominated much of the game and outshot its opponent 12-6 in the opening 20 minutes. The second session brought more from the host, but the only goal came at the other end when Andrew Calof converted a power play chance. Calof extended his productive streak to four games after getting assists in his previous three appearances.

Sochi came out hard in the third, desperate to salvage the game. However, Stanislav Galimov was in obdurate form. He finished the game with 31 saves to deny the host; Lukas Sedlak’s empty-net goal settled the outcome for Traktor as he found the net for the third game running.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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