Jokerit beat Sibir for the second time this season, climbing to fifth in the Western Conference and improving to six wins from seven games. Sibir, meanwhile, slipped to a fifth successive loss, finding few home comforts on its return to Novosibirsk after a difficult road trip.
The Finns could hardly have asked for a better start. Mikael Ruohomaa’s error behind the net, and a cruel ricochet presented John Norman with the opening goal after 15 seconds. With Sibir in poor form after losing four on the road, the Finns might have anticipated a straightforward path to victory from that point. However, the home team — reshaped by head coach Nikolai Zavarukhin — was soon level thanks to Oleg Li. Midway through the frame, the pattern repeated itself: Alex Grant restored Jokerit’s lead and Li tied it up almost immediately. Then Li produced a defense-splitting pass for Ruohomaa, who atoned for his early error by shooting Sibir into a 3-2 lead as the intermission approached.
An intense second period saw plenty of hard-hitting action but only one goal. It came in the 33rd minute, shortly after Nikita Shashkov and Iiro Pakarinen were sent to calm down after a spot of sparring. With the teams playing four-on-four, Brian O’Neill set up David Sklenicka for the tying goal.
In the third period, as it became increasingly clear that the game would be settled by a single goal, both teams looked to tighten up their play. Caution was the watchword and the focus was on solid defense. However, that did not prevent Jokerit blue liner Viktor Loov getting forward and shooting home the game-winner with four minutes left to play.
Salavat Yulaev snapped a three-game losing streak despite giving up two early goals at Avangard. The Ufa team rallied to record its second win of the season against Bob Hartley’s men after holding its nerve in a shootout. Thus, the Hawks missed the chance to join CSKA and Avtomobilist on 27 points at the top of the table, while Ufa consolidated its grip on fifth place in the East ahead of a fast-improving Traktor.
Avangard opened the scoring early when Denis Zernov fed Oliwer Kaski at the point and the Finnish defenseman’s shot went through a crowd of players to beat Juha Metsola. It wasn’t long before the first penalty of the game brought a second goal for the home team. Zernov was involved again, serving up a dish for Alexander Khokhlachyov to rifle home his third goal of the season and his second on the power play.
However, the visitor looked lively even in that first period and it took a smart reaction save from Emil Garipov to deny Vladimir Zharkov when he got his stick to a teasing feed from Nikita Soshnikov.
Ufa’s enterprising approach got its rewards in the second stanza. A quick counter attack started with Philip Larsen sending Markus Granlund into space and he found Teemu Hartikainen. A neat finish from between the hashmarks brought up the Finn’s 150th KHL goal, one game after he overtook Linus Omark’s scoring record in Ufa. Late in the frame, Salavat tied it up when Granlund batted a Dmitry Korobov point shot beyond Garipov’s reach.
There was a dramatic start to the third period. Avangard got a power play when Granlund was called for holding an opponent’s stick, but it took just 10 seconds for Salavat Yulaev to score. Sergei Shumakov misjudged the puck’s path out of the corner and Pyotr Khokhryakov nipped in to steal it away and skate up the ice for an individual effort to make it 3-2. Yegor Chinakhov was one of the players left trailing in Khokhryakov’s wake on that play, but when Avangard got another power play late in the game, the youngster played a key role in his team’s equalizer. Chinakhov fired in a shot from right and the rebound fell kindly for Reid Boucher to take the game into overtime.
The extras could not separate the teams, but the visitor took a grip on the shoot-out with successful attempts from Granlund and Soshnikov. Sergei Tolchinsky pulled one back for Avangard, but when Metsola stopped Corban Knight’s effort the game was done.