Ak Bars proved too strong for Salavat Yulaev in the latest edition of the Green Derby, skating to a 4-1 victory in Kazan. The visitor came with a weakened roster; illness ruled out the team’s Finnish stars and put acting head coach Nikolai Tsulygin in charge of a young team once again. While that was good enough to get the win at Neftekhimik in the previous game, the challenge of an Ak Bars roster gathering strength after its own health problems was too much.
The home team showed its intent early on. A penalty on Ufa’s Alexei Semenov led to a fifth-minute power play goal when Stephane Da Costa delivered a trademark wrister from the left circle. And the first 10 minutes or so saw a big advantage for Ak Bars. However, in the latter half of the first period, Salavat Yulaev came into the game a bit more and there was a good chance to equalize right on the hooter when Dmitry Kugryshev looked to set up Mikhail Vorobyov at the back door. The pass did not quite connect, however, and Ak Bars took its lead into the intermission.
The second period began with Ufa tying the scores. Alexei Pustozyorov stole the puck from Andrei Pedan on the blue line and surged up the ice to beat Timur Bilyalov. The 20-year-old claimed his second KHL goal; fitness problems elsewhere in the club handed the prospect a chance he has eagerly taken. However, his team had few chances in the rest of the middle session as Ak Bars dominated the play and outshot Salavat 20-5.
Alexander Skrynnik’s resistance in the visitor’s net kept the game alive in that middle frame but he was beaten early in the third as Justin Azevedo restored the home lead. And it wasn’t long before another penalty enabled Artyom Galimov to extend the lead to 3-1. Da Costa added to his opening goal with an assist on that play, switching the puck from one circle to the other before Stanislav Galiyev fired it to the slot and Galimov finished off the move. The Frenchman’s evening was not done yet, and he completed the scoring in the last minute to make it 4-1 — an exact replica of the result when these team met here on Sep. 17.
Metallurg’s indifferent form — three losses in four games — saw Ilya Vorobyov’s team drop to sixth in the East ahead of the trip to Neftekhimik. But a fast start from the Steelmen brought a much-needed victory and saw Vorobyov claim his 200th success as a head coach in the league.
The decisive action came midway through the first period, when two goals in 71 seconds took the game away from the host. Mikhail Pashnin claimed the first on 11:24 with the home team bemoaning its luck after a deflection took the puck away from goalie Evgeny Ivannikov. And Juho Lammikko quickly doubled the lead with an assist from fellow Finn Harri Pesonen.
Metallurg was dominant in the opening session and extended its lead early in the second. Andrei Chibisov was the scorer, with Pesonen picking up another assist. Gradually, though, Neftekhimik’s performance improved and a power play goal from Otso Rantakari late in the stanza offered some hope of a recovery. However, Magnitka ruthlessly extinguished that prospect as it powered through the third period. The home team managed just four more shots at Juho Olkinuora and a last-minute power play effort from Sergei Plotnikov confirmed a second successive 1-4 scoreline in Nizhnekamsk.
Two strugglers went head to head beside the Black Sea, both determined to avoid a defeat that would condemn the loser to the foot of the Western Conference table. Riga’s cause has not been helped by missing several games due to the pandemic: twice in recent weeks Dinamo had to forfeit its fixture due to players in quarantine, while two earlier games this season had to be rearranged due to last-minute infections among the opposition.
Sochi has yet to miss a game, but just two wins in the opening nine games put the Black Sea club in choppy waters at the foot of the table. A week-long rest after losing at home to Traktor gave the Leopards a chance to regroup ahead of this one.
The rest might have left Oleg Pogorishny a bit too eager to get back into action. The Sochi defenseman lasted just eight seconds before taking a boarding penalty. However, his team survived that scare and scored on its first power play of the night as Dmitry Kolgotin opened the scoring in the seventh minute.
Late in the middle frame, Daniil Miromanov doubled the lead, but Mathew Maione pulled one back for Riga at the start of the third. The action kept coming. The teams were reduced to four-on-four hockey and Sergei Shmelyov made it 3-1. But once Dinamo was back to full strength, Martins Dzierkals hauled it back to a one-goal game once again. In the end, though, Sochi came through. A short-handed goal from Igor Rudenkov three minutes from time gave the host an insurmountable lead. Home goalie Maxim Tretyak made 28 saves to record his first victory for his new club against a team he represented last season.