Monday’s game in the Urals brought together two teams fighting it out for third place in the Eastern Conference. With Ak Bars and Avangard contesting top spot in the Conference, Avtomobilist and Barys are jockeying for position behind them.
The home team was without goalie Jakub Kovar, injured in Saturday’s loss against Ak Bars, and called up Leonid Fomin to replace him. The Motormen played a strong defensive game in front of the inexperienced goalie, allowing just three shots on goal in the first period, but still fell behind in the 16th minute after a series of deflections took Linus Videll’s pass onto Corban Knight’s stick for the opener.
Rafael Batyrshin tied it up at the start of the second period, but Barys responded with two further goals. Nikita Mikhailis restored the lead midway through the frame, then Videll’s pace saw him blaze down the left before surprising Fomin with a shot from a tight angle. Evgeny Mozer gave Avto hope late in the third, but Videll collected his third point of the night to set up Dustin Boyd for an empty-netter that sealed the win.
Two goals apiece for Emil Galimov and Dmitry Voronkov saw Eastern Conference leader Ak Bars open a two-point gap over Avangard with a win at lowly Traktor. Voronkov, a 19-year-old forward who went to the World Juniors with Russia, got his first KHL goal at the start of the season and was back on the scoresheet today with a double.
His first goal arrived in the second period, with Ak Bars already ahead thanks to Galimov’s early effort. Voronkov converted his team’s first power play of the evening and when Galimov got his second of the game three minutes later it seemed that a rout might be on the way. Ak Bars was dominant at both ends of the ice and it took some brave defense from the host to keep the scoreline to 0-3 at the second intermission.
Voronkov added a fourth early in the final frame, getting his first double in the KHL, before Traktor belatedly got on the scoreboard. Christian Thomas scored on the power play and within a minute Igor Isayev made it 2-4. But there was too much ground to recover and Ak Bars closed out the win.
Joonas Nattinen doubled his goal tally for the season in a single game as his hat-trick fired Vityaz to a convincing victory at Severstal. The Moscow Region team is looking to secure its playoff place and today’s win snapped a worrying run of three losses. It also extended the gap down to 10th placed Severstal, which is now 10 points adrift of the playoff places.
Nattinen got the scoring started in the 13th minute. The Finn collected the puck in his own half and evaded the home defense before beating Vladislav Podyapolsky. He added a second in the 27th minute, shortly before the host lost the services of Vladislav Provolnev for a high hit.
However, Severstal killed that major penalty and reduced the arrears at the start of the third period thanks to a goal from Igor Geraskin. But Nattinen snuffed out hopes of a fightback when he completed his treble in the 48th minute and just 17 seconds later Pavel Varfolomeyev made it 4-1.
Like Vityaz, Lokomotiv picked up an important victory over a team chasing a playoff place. Sochi knew that a win today could bring it within six points of the top eight; instead defeat here, coupled with victory for Vityaz in Cherepovets, means it’s a 10-point gap for the Leopards to make up.
Lokomotiv, meanwhile, continues to push for sixth place and a potentially easier task at the start of the playoffs. The visitor had the better of the first period, despite going into the intermission tied at 1-1 after Sean Collins cancelled out Nikita Cherepanov’s opener.
The middle frame saw Sochi get in front thanks to Oleg Pogorishny. Loko was left to kill a major penalty after Pavel Kudryavtsev was ejected from the game and Morgan Ellis picked out Pogorishny with a great pass to make the score 2-1.
But the final session went emphatically to the visitor. Maxim Osipov tied the scores and barely a minute later Vladimir Tkachyov scored on the power play to make it 3-2. Tkachyov got his second of the game into an empty net to seal the win.
Like every other team on the road today, Kunlun Red Star scored four goals. Unfortunately, unlike the others, the Chinese team allowed seven at the other end, fading badly in the third period to see a 3-2 lead turn into a 4-7 loss.
Curt Fraser, whose contract extension in Beijing was announced yesterday, saw his team make a great start. Trevor Murphy put the Dragons 1-0 up in the second minute and Luke Lockhart doubled that lead after deking past Nikita Bespalov in the eighth. Kaspars Daugavins pulled one back for the home team, but Lockhart struck again early in the second to restore that two-goal cushion.
However, throughout this season Red Star has struggled to maintain its discipline. Two penalties in quick succession gave Spartak a 5-on-3 advantage and Daugavins cashed in. Then the home team lost Ilya Arkalov for spearing, but Fyodor Malykhin marked his return to action with a short-handed goal to tie the scores. That was Malykhin’s fourth goal in four games since joining Spartak, and it gave the home team belief that it could go on and win this game.
True, Red Star went back in front when Tyler Wong scored on the power play. Wong’s error enabled the counter from which Malykhin scored, but he needed less than two minutes to rehabilitate himself. Spartak’s defensive work was not done; the home team had to kill a 5-on-3 situation and rose to the task to prevent the visitor from seizing control of the game once again.
Back at equal strength, Andrei Kuteikin tied it up at 4-4. Then more penalty trouble ended with Artyom Fyodorov putting Spartak in front for the first time with five minutes to play. Alexander Khokhlachyov extended the lead and Daugavins had the final say with a short-handed goal to complete his hat-trick into the empty net.