Nigel Dawes returned to action after missing almost the whole of October, and immediately made an impact with two goals. The forward, last seen in a green jersey on Oct. 1, also had a hand in Stephane Da Costa’s opener as Ak Bars got revenge for its derby day defeat a couple of weeks ago.
The home team looked to assert itself early in the game, enjoying the better of the first period. And, as soon as there was a power play chance, Ak Bars went in front. It took just 11 seconds for Da Costa to find the net and give his team a well-merited lead at the intermission. But as soon as the action resumed, Neftekhimik tied the scores. Rafael Bikmullin was the scorer, stepping up from the point to shoot past Amir Miftakhov. Then, midway through the frame, the visitor got in front. Andrei Kostitsyn’s close-range effort was blocked, but the rebound went straight to Alexander Osipov.
Now it was time for Dawes to remind us what we’d been missing during his recent absence. The Ak Bars power play was always a potent threat in this game and it helped the Kazakh international to tie the game in the 37th minute. After his team won an attacking face off, Dawes fired a shot to the top shelf to make it 2-2.
Neftekhimik got a great chance at the start of the third when Alexander Burmistrov was ejected for slashing. However, the major penalty did not accrue; indeed Ak Bars created the best chance of that passage, despite being short-handed. The winner came with two minutes left. Viktor Tikhonov took on the visiting defense single-handed before dropping a pass back to Dawes. The shot found the net, but not before Tikhonov collided with Konstantin Barulin in the Neftekhimik net. However, the forward was pushed into the collision and a quick video review confirmed that the goal was good.
For Spartak, this was a game of two penalty shots. One scored by Robin Hanzl, another missed by Sergei Shirokov. The latter failure proved costly, as the Red-and-Whites failed to tie the scores at the end of the second period and ended up falling just short despite Ilya Talaluyev’s power play goal late in the game.
The start saw Lukas Radil pick up where he left off last time out. The Czech potted a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Sochi and struck again after 31 seconds here. Severstal responded with a string of attacks on Nikita Bespalov’s net and tied the scores thanks to Nikita Rogov in the 15th minute. However, that parity was short-lived as Hanzl burst through one-on-one and fired a shot against the bar, only to get a second chance when Mikhail Tikhonov was called for hooking back the Czech. From the resultant penalty shot, Hanzl restored the home lead.
In the middle frame, though, Severstal turned the game around. Goals from Kirill Kapustin and Roberts Bukarts put the visitor in front before a frantic passage of play left Spartak feeling more than a little ill-used. First, Vadim Kudako blocked a goalbound shot with his hand, prompting the award of a penalty shot. The puck broke free and play continued, with Shirokov stuffing the puck into the net but seeing his effort whistled off for interference on goalie Vladislav Podyapolsky. Shirokov had a second chance with that penalty shot, but Podyapolsky won the duel and preserved Severstal’s advantage.
Midway through the third, Igor Geraskin extended the visitor’s lead and not even a later power play goal from Talaluyev could spark the fightback that Spartak needed. With four wins from its last five games, Severstal leaps to fourth in the West. Spartak remains eighth.