Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Kunlun Red Star defeated SKA for the first time since joining the KHL. A hard-working 2-1 win in Petersburg makes it four wins in five games for the Chinese franchise. Lokomotiv saw its nine game winning streak come to a halt in Yekaterinburg where Jakub Kovar blanked the visiting offense before Brooks Macek grabbed an overtime winner. Traktor’s good form continued and a home win over Torpedo puts Chelyabinsk up to fourth. Elsewhere, rehabilitation was the name of the game. Salavat Yulaev and Dynamo Moscow bounced back from heavy home losses by defeating Amur and Avangard respectively, while Dinamo Minsk ended a five-game skid by beating Dinamo Riga. Sochi defeated Barys by the same margin, and Sibir produced the same scoreline at Metallurg.

Lokomotiv runs into a wall

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 1 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 0 OT (0-0, 0-0, 0-0, 1-0)

Lokomotiv’s nine-game winning streak hit the buffers in Yekaterinburg thanks to a superb performance from home goalie Jakub Kovar. The Czech international made 35 saves to smuggle a 1-0 verdict in overtime against the KHL’s form team.

It wasn’t that the Railwaymen did a whole lot wrong in this game. Defensively, Bill Peters’ team kept up its impressive form and, for the fourth time in five games got to the 60-minute mark without allowing a goal. Even when confronted with the KHL’s most efficient power play — prior to today’s game, Avto had a 28% conversion rate — Ilya Konovalov & Co held firm.

However, the visiting offense was unable to reproduce the kind of production that saw it score five in Ufa last time out. That was partly due to Kovar’s majestic form on his way to a 40th shut-out in the KHL, and partly due to a power play that continues to underperform. Prior to today’s game, Loko had a 14.5% success rate and six unsuccessful attempts at Avto did nothing to enhance that number.

Late in the game, with the teams playing 4-on-4, the home team went closest to grabbing a winning. Anatoly Golyshev hit the bar and Alexei Makeyev was narrowly wide of the target. Loko survived those scares but did not heed the warning and lost out early in overtime when Brooks Macek smashed home a Makeyev feed to end Lokomotiv’s run and see Avtomobilist bounce back from a 3-6 loss to Avangard in its previous game.

The rehabilitation game

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 4 Amur Khabarovsk 1 (0-0, 4-1, 0-0)

After an embarrassing 0-5 loss on home ice in its last game, Salavat Yulaev needed an immediate response. The defeat against Lokomotiv exposed every possible flaw in Ufa’s play and head coach Tomi Lamsa understood that a strong reaction from his team was essential against an Amur roster that can be an awkward opponent.

In the first period it was hard to determine the stronger team. For all the opponents’ endeavor, there were few chances at either end and it was little surprise that we reached the first break with no goals to report. That pattern of play continued until late in the second period, but then the game exploded into life with five goals in four minutes.

Salavat Yulaev suddenly found an extra gear, and Ilya Baranov’s opener was followed by a Teemu Hartikainen effort 25 seconds later. Amur called a time-out, but failed to regroup and it was 3-0 on 37:01 when Danil Bashkirov found the net. Three goals in 71 seconds became four in 158 when Vyacheslav Solodukhin piled on the agony for Amur, but there was still time for more action before the break. A penalty on Hartikainen gave the Tigers a chance to relieve the pressure and the visitor converted the chance after just 11 seconds. Kirill Rasskazov got the power play goal.

With the game decisively broken, the action drifted back into the pattern of the first period. Again, chances were few and Salavat used its game management to close out a comfortable and confidence-boosting win.

Milovzorov’s double downs Metallurg

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 0 Sibir Novosibirsk 3 (0-1, 0-1, 0-1)

Monday’s KHL action brought two scoring milestones. Sergei Mozyakin’s 900th point in the KHL deservedly took the headlines, but somewhat overshadowed Sibir’s Yegor Milovzorov getting his 350th point in the league. Today, the two forwards went head-to-head as their teams met in Magnitogorsk — and it proved to very much Milovzorov’s day.

Photo: 28.10.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) - Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)

Mozyakin was making his 800th KHL appearance — only defenseman Evgeny Biryukov has more — but this was Milovzorov’s day. Sibir’s captain opened the scoring in the 15th minute with an unusual power play goal scored on a counterattack. Then, six seconds into the middle frame, he doubled his team’s advantage after Jyrki Jokipakka’s feed released him into the danger zone and his wrister from the left circle flew past Artyom Zagidulin.

Zagidulin’s evening ended late in the second period when he was beaten by Mikhail Romayev after a scrimmage on the slot. A video review established that the goalie was impeded by Evgeny Chesalin, but Ilya Vorobyov had seen enough and sent Gleb Nosov into the fray. The youngster let nobody down, stopping everything that came his way in the third period. However, once he was called back to the bench, Sibir took advantage to score an empty net goal through Mikael Ruohomaa. That’s three straight wins for the visitor but four losses in the last five for Metallurg.

Traktor climbs to fourth

Traktor Chelyabinsk 4 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 1 (1-0, 2-0, 1-1)

Traktor’s good recent form continued with victory at home to Torpedo. Anvar Gatiyatulin’s team stretched its winning streak to three games and has won nine of its last 11 games. Today’s result lifts Chelyabinsk to fourth in the Western Conference.

After returning from the long trip to Khabarovsk, Traktor was able to recall Pontus Aberg to the team. The Swede duly showed why he was wanted, opening the scoring with a power play goal in the ninth minute. The home team held the initiative throughout the opening frame, but it wasn’t until the start of the second that pressure turned into goals. First, a great pass from Alexander Avtsin released Yaroslav Kosov to make it 2-0. Two minutes later, Dmitry Ogurtsov got all of his sizeable frame behind a powerful that left Alexei Melnichuk clutching at thin air.

The start of the third saw Torpedo grab a much-needed power play goal. Ivan Chekhovich made it two goals in two games to offer his team a lifeline. That roused the visitor from its torpor and with five minutes to go an impressive power play saw Ivan Fedotov at his best to maintain Traktor’s two-goal lead. However, Igor Polygalov’s late goal — his first of the season — killed off the game and kept Traktor on an upward curve.

Sharangovich too strong for Riga

Dinamo Minsk 3 Dinamo Riga 0 (0-0, 2-0, 1-0)

Dinamo Minsk snapped its five-game losing streak with a morale-boosting success at home to rock bottom Riga. While the Belarusians celebrate a win that takes them back to fourth in the West, the Latvians slipped to a sixth straight loss.

There wasn’t much between the teams in the first period, with Minsk just edging the stats despite having to kill two penalties. For a time, it was similar in the middle session but after Brennan Menell put the home team ahead, things began to change. Rookie goalie Eriks Vitols, a 19-year-old making his Riga debut, found himself the busier of the two netminders and was duly beaten again in the 32nd minute by Yegor Sharangovich.

Sharangovich is Minsk’s leading goalscorer this season and he took his numbers to 10 midway through the third. It’s also the fourth game in a row that he’s found the net; the 22-year-old, back on loan in his native Minsk after two seasons in the Devils organization, is showing signs of maturing into the kind of prospect Belarusian hockey is looking for. And goalie Alexei Kolosov, 18, recorded his first win and first shut-out in the KHL as Dinamo sees more grounds for optimism about its future.

Barys continues to struggle

HC Sochi 3 Barys Nur-Sultan 0 (0-0, 2-0, 1-0)

A second win in three games hints at a revival for Sochi, but Barys sees its problems multiply after a fourth successive loss. The Kazakh team finds itself three points adrift of the playoff places and while Yury Mikhailis’ men have games in hand after their time in quarantine, they also face a congested schedule to catch up.

Sochi, meanwhile, also has ground to make up in the West where it is currently second bottom ahead of Dinamo Riga. But there are signs that incoming head coach Evgeny Stavrovsky is turning things around and this game was one of the best of the season so far for the Leopards.

After a tight first period, Sochi broke the deadlock at the start of the second thanks to Malte Stromwall. A long 5-on-3 power play midway through the frame saw Sergei Shmelyov ding the piping but the home team could not extend its lead until late in the session when Daniil Miromanov made it 2-0. The same player added a third into the empty net to wrap up the win, while goalie Maxim Tretyak recorded his first KHL shut-out with 23 saves.

Dragons make history in Petersburg

SKA St. Petersburg 1 Kunlun Red Star 2 (1-0, 0-2, 0-0)

Kunlun Red Star earned its first ever victory over SKA thanks to a smash and grab raid in Petersburg. Two goals late in the second period turned this game around for the visitor, which claimed its first road win of the season despite allowing 43 shots on Simon Hrubec’s net. The Czech international was a star performer on the day as the home offense endured a frustrating evening.

There was little sign of the difficulties awaiting SKA in the first period. The home team went in front early on when Kirill Marchenko forced the puck home during a scramble in front of Simon Hrubec’s net. The Army Men looked to build on that, dominating the play and creating chance after chance in a session full of attacking intent.

The second period started in similar fashion, with Miro Aaltonen almost doubling the lead in the opening seconds. He was all alone at the back door, but a combination of Hrubec’s skate and the goalpost kept the puck out. After that, though, the visiting defense notably tightened up. SKA continued to enjoy plenty of time in the danger zone but found it harder to fashion big chances.

Then came the hammer blow. Two goals in two minutes as the middle frame drew to a close turned this game upside down. First, Trevor Murphy’s speculative pass released Tyler Wong into the danger zone. He ripped past Lukas Bengtsson and advanced to score on young Yaroslav Askarov, back in the SKA net for the first time since Sep. 20. Then Ryan Sproul just managed to keep the puck in the offensive zone, exchanged passes with Igor Larionov Jr and fired home from between the hash marks to put the Dragons in front a minute before the intermission.

The final frame saw SKA hit the bar early on when Vladislav Kamenev rattled the crossbar. Many in the arena thought the puck was in the net, but play continued. The home team pressed and pressed, with Red Star struggling to get out of its zone for any length of time, but the visitor’s discipline was impressive. Even when asked to kill two penalties, the Dragons were resolute in defense and kept their defensive shape. In the end, SKA simply ran out of time and ideas; Kunlun got to celebrate a memorable victory.

Late drama in Dynamo win

Dynamo Moscow 3 Avangard Omsk 2 OT (1-0, 0-1, 1-1, 1-0)

Dynamo found the perfect response after Monday’s chastening 1-5 loss at home to Vityaz, rallying in the closing seconds to grab an overtime win against Avangard. The Hawks, though, beaten heavily by SKA last time out, missed the chance to close the gap on Ak Bars at the top of the Eastern Conference and is now on a sticky run of just one win in five.

Photo: 28.10.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Dynamo (Moscow) - Avangard (Omsk)

The home team made the better start, enjoying the bulk of the play in the first period and going ahead the 14th minute. Dmitry Kagarlitsky and Vadim Shipachyov combined behind the net, with Kagarlitsky squeezing a shot from beyond the goal line that bounced off Emil Garipov’s back and into the net.

However, confidence is still fragile among the Muscovites and the second period saw Avangard come back into the game. A power play chance late in the frame saw the visitor tie it up when Sergei Tolchinsky fired home a Kirill Semyonov feed. And Tolchinsky was at it again at the start of the third, storming down the left before cutting inside to beat Ivan Bocharov and put the Hawks in front.

That looked like it might be the game-winner. Dynamo struggled to create chances in the third, not helped by a series of penalties. However, a last minute surge brought a dramatic tying goal. Shipachyov fired in a shot from the right and Garipov could only parry it out in front. Oscar Lindberg reacted fastest and the Blue-and-Whites celebrated salvation.

The Swede then played a big role in the game-winner when his overtime shot was diverted by Daniil Tarasov. That vital touch on the slot made it 3-2 and transformed the mood around the Moscow club.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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