Andy Potts Andy Potts
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We promised a more competitive KHL season than ever — and today’s results underlined the point. Western Conference leader CSKA lost 2-5 at Jokerit, while Avangard, top of the East, failed to score at Metallurg. SKA bounced back from its defeat against Dynamo to win 4-1 at Sochi and Ak Bars also showed a return to form as it overpowered Amur 4-0. Avtomobilist joins a clutch of teams on 25 points at the top of the table after holding on to win 4-3 at Vityaz. There were tight losses at home for Dinamo Riga (in a shoot-out to Loko) and Spartak (overtime vs Barys).

Magnitka stops Omsk

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3 Avangard Omsk 0 (0-0, 1-0, 2-0)

Metallurg followed up a victory over Western Conference leader CSKA by blanking the Eastern Conference top dog, Avangard. The Hawks failed to score for the first time this season as Vasily Koshechkin made 26 saves.

The home team was without Juho Lammikko and Nikolai Prokhorkin due to illness. That meant 16-year-old Danila Yurov moved to the third line and played more than 10 minutes, while Yury Platonov returned to the senior team at the same time as his father, Denis, took on coaching duties in the KHL for the first time. Ilya Vorobyov remains absent due to illness and Fredrik Stillman continued as acting head coach.

That lack of personnel did not greater hamper Magnitka. In the first 10 minutes of play, Avangard was limited to just 12 seconds on the attack and by the first intermission the visitor mustered just five shots at Koshechkin. At the other end, Metallurg was busier but little more incisive.

The breakthrough came midway through the game. Taylor Beck picked out Andrej Nestrasil in the corner and the Czech tried to find Yurov on the slot. The puck didn’t get there: a deflection off former Metallurg defenseman Alexei Bereglazov directed it into the net to give the home team a deserved lead.

However, it wasn’t until the closing seconds that the host made the game safe. Avangard spurned two power play chances in the third period, then the Steelmen scored twice into an empty net in the final minute. Harri Pesonen made it 2-0 and Andrei Chibisov finished it off. Koshechkin added an assist on the third goal to go with his shut-out.

CSKA loses again

Jokerit Helsinki 5 CSKA Moscow 2 (0-1, 3-0, 2-1)

Both teams came into this game looking to bounce back after seeing winning runs punctured on Monday. CSKA lost 4-6 at Metallurg, while Jokerit went down 2-4 at home to Lokomotiv. In the event, a flurry of three goals in five second-period minutes proved decisive for the Finns as CSKA suffered back-to-back losses for the first time since a four-game skid back in Nov. 2019.

At first, though, it seemed that Army Men would quickly return to form. In the second minute Anton Slepyshev gave the visitor the lead and that advantage endured throughout opening session. Absent since Oct. 1, the forward wasted little time in announcing his return to action.

Jokerit had to wait for a response. But when it came, it was devastating. Peter Regin tied it up with his first goal of the season after 25 minutes, then a power play effort from Niklas Jensen gave the home team the lead. Jensen turned provider a couple of minutes later as Iiro Pakarinen made it 3-1 and the game turned around in 5 minutes, 36 seconds.

CSKA looked to force the tempo in the third, but struggled to get through the Jokerit defense. There was still time for a late flurry of goals though. John Norman made it 4-1 in the 59th minute, finding the empty net to celebrate his return from injury. Mat Robinson gave CSKA an outside chance when he got the visitor’s second of the night, but Jensen had the final say with his second goal of the game.

Ak Bars back on form

Ak Bars Kazan 4 Amur Khabarovsk 0 (1-0, 2-0, 1-0)

Andrei Pedan isn’t noted as a regular goalscorer. The Ak Bars defenseman had eight goals in 95 appearances prior to this game. But today the 27-year-old scored twice as his team enjoyed a comfortable victory.

Comfort has been in relatively short supply in Kazan of late. With illness affecting the team, an uncharacteristic run of five losses in seven games meant there was an unaccustomed sense of doubt about the pride of Tatarstan. But this was an assured display, building on the progress that Dmitry Kvartalnov talked about following Monday’s shoot-out loss against Traktor.

Ak Bars came close to taking the lead in the 14th minute, only for Mikhail Glukhov’s effort to be ruled out for kicking the puck. It hardly mattered: within a minute Ivan Yemets scored his second goal in four games this season to give the host a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

The second period saw Alexander Burmistrov extend the lead on the power play, before Pedan got his first of the night. And in the third, the defenseman repeated the trick with an almost identical effort, firing into the top corner from the blue line.

Makeyev torments former team-mates

Vityaz Moscow Region 3 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 4 (1-1, 0-1, 2-2)

A bright start was not enough to propel Vityaz to victory as Avtomobilist returned to the top of the KHL table. But with four teams tied on 25 points, there’s little to separate the Motormen from Ak Bars, Avangard and CSKA.

Photo: 14.10.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Vityaz (Moscow Region) - Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg)

Vityaz, currently eighth in the West, is not enjoying such a profitable campaign, unable to string together a winning run. And after victory last time out, Mikhail Kravets again saw his team fail to capitalize despite an early lead in this game. Alexander Semin put Vityaz ahead after eight minutes, but that was the highlight for the host.

Late in the first period Alexei Makeyev tied it up, scoring on his former club for the second time this season. The first, on Sep. 22, was in an overtime loss on home ice; today the outcome was better for his new employer. Avto killed a penalty at the start of the second, then moved ahead on an Alexei Vasilevsky goal in the 25th minute. And, at the start of the third, Brooks Macek added a power play tally of his own to take the game away from Vityaz. Makeyev then added an assist as Denis Bodrov made it 4-1 midway through the third.

Vityaz kept fighting and Svyatoslav Grebenshchikov kept the game alive with a goal in the 51st minute. But Avto always had enough to be comfortable, and Ivan Larichev’s tally for the home team was too late to change the final outcome.

HC Sochi 1 SKA St. Petersburg 4 (1-0, 0-2, 0-2)

For Sochi head coach Alexander Andriyevsky, Monday’s 7-2 loss at home to Avangard was the final straw. He was dismissed after the defeat with his team already a little way adrift of the playoff places. For the visit of SKA, he was replaced by interim head coach Yegor Baskatov.

SKA also had an interim coach behind the bench with Roman Rotenberg continuing to deputize for Valery Bragin. He welcomed back three players after noticeable absences, with Dinar Khafizullin, Magnus Hellberg and youngsters Kirill Marchenko and Danila Galenyuk rejoining the fray. Vladimir Tkachyov missed out as SKA looked to bounce back from a 3-4 loss at home to Dynamo.

Sochi got the opening goal, converting a 5-on-3 power play thanks to Jere Karjalainen. But SKA played with some menace in the first period and turned that into goals in the second. Viktor Antipin tied it up then, with Karjalainen in the box, Lukas Bengtsson sent the visitor into the second intermission with a one-goal lead.

The home team tried to raise the tempo in the third, but was unable to do much damage in front of Hellberg’s net. Instead, Marchenko celebrated his return to action with a third goal for SKA and Joonas Kemppainen wrapped it up with a late power play goal.

Riga misses out in another shoot-out

Dinamo Riga 2 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3 SO (0-0, 1-1, 1-1, 0-0, 0-1)

For the second game running, Dinamo went close to winning but missed out in a shoot-out. There was little to choose between the teams as they tied 2-2 in regulation, but Eddie Pasquale was unbeatable in the shoot-out as Lokomotiv took the verdict to make it two wins from two on its Baltic tour.

A goalless first period saw Yegor Averin have the best chance to open the scoring. He was denied by Ilya Proskuryakov after getting clean through on the Dinamo net. The second began with a Dinamo power play, converted by Pavel Chernov to give the home team the lead. That advantage did not last long; Loko replied after 14 seconds through Artur Kayumov.

At the start of the third, Loko went in front when Andre Petersson collected the puck following a Riga mistake in center ice. The Swede caught a break when his pass across the face of goal was deflected into the net by defenseman Reece Scarlett. Dinamo tied it up when Evgeny Grachyov fired one in off the post after outwitting Anton Malyshev. In the shoot-out, Matt White hit the crossbar for Dinamo, while Yegor Korshkov and Vladimir Tkachyov found the net for Lokomotiv.

Dietz double adds to Spartak’s worries

Spartak Moscow 2 Barys Nur-Sultan 3 OT (1-0, 1-2, 0-0, 0-1)

Neither Spartak nor Barys are living up to expectations right now. Both teams have had their problems with illness this season and, going into this game, both were just outside the playoff spots in their respective conferences. For Spartak, a high-scoring win over rock-bottom Kunlun Red Star represented the only success in four games; Barys had two wins from four, but hasn’t won in regulation since Sep. 10, also against the Chinese franchise.

Photo: 14.10.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Spartak (Moscow) - Barys (Nur-Sultan)

Maybe it wasn’t surprising that this game went to overtime, then. Spartak got the start it wanted, with Sergei Shirokov opening the scoring early on. That ushered in a first period that the home team dominated without adding to its lead, and Barys wasted little time in punishing that profligacy. Nikita Mikhailis tied it up 45 seconds after the intermission and Darren Dietz soon added a power play goal to put the visitor in front.

True, Lukas Radil was quick to make it 2-2, with Jori Lehtera collecting his second assist of the evening. But Spartak’s early confidence was shaken and the third period soon turned into a cagey affair with neither team willing to risk defeat in search of the game-breaking moment. The winning goal came a minute into overtime when Dietz battled to win the puck in center ice than advanced to beat Julius Hudacek. Barys remains in ninth place, but is now level on points with Sibir and has played six fewer games.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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