Vityaz pulled off a shock win at Ak Bars on Friday, but found itself three goals down inside 18 minutes at Neftekhimik. The visitor managed to tie the scores in a rousing recovery, only to be denied at least one point by Alexander Kucheryavenko’s late goal.
The home team was boosted by the return of head coach Vyacheslav Butsayev, albeit as a notional assistant to interim head coach Vyacheslav Kasatkin. Finnish defenseman Otso Rantakari also made his first appearance of the season. And, for Butsayev, there was a proud moment as his son, Daniel, marked his second KHL game with his first point in the league, assisting as Roman Graborenko opened the scoring.
That came midway through the opening frame and it wasn’t long before Rantakari doubled the lead on the power play. Alexei Volgin made it 3-0 before the intermission and Vityaz swapped goalies, bringing on Pyotr Kochetkov for Ilya Ezhov.
Then the visitor started on the long road back into the game. Mattias Tedenby got his first KHL goal to put Vityaz on the scoreboard, then the third period brought further markers from Fyodor Malykhin and Alexander Semin. Justin Danforth added two assists and the game was tied with 141 seconds to play.
However, there would be no need for overtime. Neftekhimik dug deep, recovered from the loss of its lead, and claimed a winner through Alexander Kucheryavenko with 70 seconds left on the clock.
Traktor picked up its first win of the season, while the Dragons are still waiting to taste victory this time around. The visitor gave a KHL debut to 20-year-old forward German Shaporev, who was one of the junior stars invited to play at the All-Star Game back in January. Selected as the 13th forward, he got a brief flavor of life in the big league as he begins a try-out contract with Red Star.
However, this was a game where Traktor’s forwards dominated. Once Sergei Kalinin gave the home side the lead with a power play goal midway through the first, there was little doubt about the outcome. Kunlun were well-organized defensively but seldom posed much of an attacking threat; with two goals in two games, Kalinin’s individual tally now matches that of the Chinese team.
Traktor extended its lead in the 26th minute when Anton Lazarev fired home from a tight angle following a point shot from Oleg Yevenko. Then Vitaly Kravtsov showed good hands in front of the net to add a third, opening his account on his return to Chelyabinsk on loan from New York.
Red Star once again managed a consolation goal in the last second, with Ivan Nikolishin finding the net on a power play. That robbed Roman Will of a shut-out on his KHL debut but could not change the outcome of the game.
After Metallurg’s offense made hard work of defeating Kunlun Red Star on Friday, this was a very different game. Magnitka got ahead early on and took complete control with an impressive second-period performance, before cruising to a convincing win.
The first period was evenly matched, but Sochi took the only penalty of the frame and paid the full price. Pavel Padakin sat for tripping, Andrei Chibisov surged down the wing and sprayed a pass to the opposite flank for Andrej Nestrasil to shoot home the opening goal.
That was the only difference between the teams until the halfway point, but then Metallurg took control. Sergei Plotnikov sent Maxim Karpov on the charge and the forward got the better of Gordeyev before scoring on Joel Lassinantti. Then a second Metallurg power play brought a second goal for Nestrasil and Taylor Beck’s backhand finish sent the Swedish goalie back to the bench as Magnitka went up 4-0.
In the final frame, Juho Lammikko potted his first goal in the KHL before Beck wrapped it up with yet another power play goal. Juho Olkinuora marked his Metallurg debut with a shut-out, making 34 saves as Sochi’s forwards failed to make the best of their chances.
SKA tied this game in dramatic fashion with just 22 seconds left to play, but could not complete its recovery in overtime. Instead, Ak Bars got the verdict thanks to a first goal from Nigel Dawes following his summer move from Avtomobilist.
Ak Bars had already defeated one set of Army Men, winning the Opening Cup at CSKA on Wednesday — by the same 3-2 OT margin — and was keen to add another big Western Conference scalp to its collection. The host also needed to bounce back after a hugely disappointing 0-4 loss to Vityaz here two days ago, not the home opener anyone expected from Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team.
SKA, meanwhile, went into the season after an indifferent summer and made hard work of defeating a below-strength Neftekhimik in its starter. Valery Bragin is still stamping his authority on a renovated roster, to the extent that few in Petersburg would see this game as a valid indicator of the current balance of power among the KHL’s big hitters.
The game began at a fearsome tempo — early in the game, the play ran for more than seven minutes without a break. In that time, Anton Burdasov pulled off a slick spin-o-rama on his own blue line but shooting chance were hard to come by until Artyom Galimov tested Alexander Samonov in the SKA net.
The opening goal had to wait until the second period, and it went to Ak Bars. Dmitry Voronkov’s defense-splitting pass put SKA on the back foot, an attempt to foul Galimov could not prevent him from feeding Stanislav Galiyev in front of the net and Samonov had no chance of stopping the shot. Ak Bars’ new goal horn got a belated premiere; the home team had the lead.
The SKA goalie made a big save to keep his team in it soon afterwards, denying Danis Zaripov on the doorstep after youngster Safronov set up the veteran with a great chance. Meanwhile, Timur Bilyalov had a big stop of his own at the other end, denying Miro Aaltonen with a flailing stick.
Midway through the third, the teams traded quick goals. Artyom Lukoyanov went round the back to set up Patrice Cormier, with the SKA defense strangely absent from the danger zone as the Canadian made it 2-0. The visitor thought Ak Bars might have been called for too many men, but within a minute it halved the deficit when Andrei Kuzmenko fired Emil Galimov’s feed home from between the hash marks.
Then came the late drama. Ak Bars took a penalty, SKA went 6-on-4 and Burdasov took advantage of the extra space to lurk to the right of the net. Linden Vey got the puck to him, and the SKA captain shot home from a tight angle to send the game to overtime.
The extras lasted less than a minute before Ak Bars got the winner. Stephane Da Costa’s feed slid between the sticks of SKA’s desperate defense; Dawes stumbled as he hit his shot, but even as he fell he steered the puck past Samonov to settle the outcome.