Severstal arrived in the Urals with a plan to halt Traktor’s three-game winning streak and silence in-form Vitaly Kravtsov, scorer of five goals in the last four games. Andrei Razin changed his defensive pairings ahead of the game and worked hard to ensure that scoring chances were at a premium.
The tactics paid off. Traktor never had a prolonged spell where it controlled the game and Vladislav Podyapolsky was equal to anything the home team could throw at him. At the other end, the closest we came to a goal was a Yury Trubachyov effort against the post.
The visitor got its reward for a sound defensive display midway through the third. Artyom Gareyev evaded the attentions of the Traktor defense and Andrei Alexeyev’s pass set him up for the only goal of the game. Podyapolsky needed 21 saves for his first shut-out of the season.
If goals were scarce in Chelyabinsk, they were abundant in Yekaterinburg. It took a mere 17 seconds for Alexei Makeyev to open the scoring in this one, putting Avtomobilist ahead against his former club. It took longer to review the video and confirm that Makeyev had not kicked the puck home. However, Vityaz responded with a power play goal late in the first. Mattias Tedenby was the scorer, but this play was all about a one-handed assist from Justin Danforth.
In the second period there were two bursts of quick goals. First, in the 33rd minute, Vityaz jumped to a 3-1 lead on goals from Linus Hultstrom, his first in the KHL, and Ivan Larichev. But Avto responded with a quickfire double of its own after getting a 5-on-3 power play. Chay Genoway and Nikita Tryamkin tied the game in the 39th. Pavel Datsyuk assisted on Genoway’s goal, taking his productive streak to six games. With 10 (2+8) points this season, the Magic Man is currently tied with Stanislav Galiyev in third place among KHL scorers.
However, the veteran was destined to finish on the losing side. After a goalless third period, Vityaz got the verdict when Kaspars Daugavins got the only goal of the extras. Avtomobilist dominated most of overtime, and Ilya Ezhov pulled off some big saves to keep his team in the game, but Daugavins needed just one chance to win it.
Sochi snapped its losing streak and celebrated its first win in Ufa since 2016. Salavat rallied from 0-3 and came close to saving the game, but a third loss of the season saw Tomi Lamsa’s team lost ground on Avtomobilist at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Ufa’s thoughts were perhaps clouded by news that three members of the team — Lamsa, plus forwards Markus Granlund and Danil Bashkirov — had tested positive for coronavirus and were in isolation pending a confirmatory test. Viktor Kozlov took temporary charge in Lamsa’s absence.
The first half of the game went perfectly for the visitor. Dmitry Kolgotin opened the scoring midway through the first period, then Nikita Tochitsky scored twice in the second, marking his 300th KHL appearance in style.
Sakari Manninen pulled one back soon after Sochi’s third and that galvanized the home team for a big push to save the game. Dmitry Kugryshev scored on a 5-on-3 power play midway through the third to raise hopes of at least taking the action into overtime. But Joel Lassinantti had other ideas in the Sochi net. While his defense kept Ufa to the outside for much of the third period, the Swede dealt with whatever came his way in the last few minutes to give Sochi the win.
The day’s big game was in Kazan, where a sell-out crowd of 4,450 (50% of the usual arena capacity) witnessed a hard-fought battle that went all the way. Avangard started the day as Eastern Conference leader alongside Avtomobilist; Ak Bars knew that a win would lift it ahead of its opponent. The stage was set for a clash of the titans.
The first period saw Avangard enjoy much the better of the play but go to the intermission trailing by the only goal of the game. Stanislav Galiyev was the scorer, marking his 200th game for Ak Bars by making the most of some fine work from young Nikita Dynyak to open the scoring in the 13th minute. Incredibly, that was the home team’s first shot on goal in the game. At the first interval, Igor Bobkov had faced just three meaningful efforts, while Timur Bilyalov had 11 saves at the other end.
The second period was far more even, but goals were still hard to come by. The visitor’s penalty kill worked hard to thwart Ak Bars twice then, late in the frame, Avangard’s power play did the business. Nigel Dawes barely had time to rest his legs in the penalty box when Avangard won the face-off, fed Oliwer Kaski at the point and celebrated as his shot found the net via a deflection off Dmitry Yudin.
Ak Bars almost grabbed the lead seconds before the intermission when Mikael Wikstrand found Justin Azevedo on the slot, but the Canadian’s effort from a tight angle wasn’t good enough to beat Bobkov. That inspired the home team to take the game to Omsk in the third, outshooting the visitor 11-4. It was almost a mirror image of the opening session, but this time neither team could fashion a goal.
Overtime saw both teams go close, with chances for Jiri Sekac and Denis Zernov at one end, Viktor Tikhonov and Kirill Petrov at the other. But there was no winner, and it went all the way to the shoot-out before young Alexander Khovanov claimed the decisive goal. The 20-year-old was the only player to keep his nerve and score in the shoot-out, clinching victory in only his third KHL appearance. Avangard’s bonus point keeps it on top of the Eastern Conference, but it is now in a three-way tie with Avtomobilist and Ak Bars.
Two struggling teams met here, both knowing that a loser in regulation would be left at the foot of the KHL standings. Neftekhimik was looking to snap a four-game losing streak, while Amur was eager to bounce back after a 0-5 drubbing at Traktor in its previous game.
The visitor made the brighter start, taking a fourth-minute lead through Alexander Polunin before Artur Gizdatullin doubled the lead in the first period. But the second stanza belonged to Neftekhimik. Timur Khafizov pulled a goal back with 18-year-old prospect Maxim Groshev collecting his first point of the season. Then Alexander Kucheryavenko found the net for the third game running to tie it up ahead of the third period.
There was no further scoring in the game and the result was decided in a shoot-out. Nail Yakupov twice succeeded for Amur, but finished on the losing side when Libor Hudacek put Neftekhimik 3-2 ahead and Konstantin Barulin denied Yakupov’s third and final attempt.
Walkover win for Kunlun Red Star
The other game scheduled to take place today involved Kunlun Red Star and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. However, the visitor failed to arrive in Mytishchi to play, citing a shortage of healthy players. As a result, Lokomotiv forfeits the game and Red Star claims two points.