Two of the KHL’s form teams did battle in Petersburg. Both came into the game on the back of four-game winning streaks and both had designs on closing the gap to the leaders of their respective conferences. While SKA finds itself a little way adrift of CSKA, Traktor knew that a win here would put it level on points with Ak Bars at the top of the East.
In the opening exchanges there was little to choose between the teams. Each had eight shots on goal, neither could find the net. In truth, both defenses were looking solid: even an early power play apiece did not generate any significant danger around either net.
The middle frame was also goalless, but we saw rather more attacking intent from Traktor even though SKA spent far more time in enemy territory. The visitor was happy to fire in shots whenever it could, while the Army Men played a more cautious game, trying to fashion clear-cut chances and move the puck around the visiting defense. The end result of this clash in styles was a continued stalemate.
The only goal came late in the game. Lukas Sedlak won a face-off in the SKA zone and the puck went back to Tomas Hyka for a one-timer that slipped under Yaroslav Askarov’s pads in the 53rd minute. It was one of just three shots that Askarov had to deal with in the final stanza but it was enough to decide the outcome. Traktor goalie Ivan Fedotov proved too good for anything the home team could throw at him, making 26 saves to secure his first shut-out of the season.
Tonight’s attendance is also noteworthy. SKA welcomed 6,315 fans to the arena for this game — a sell-out under current restrictions and the biggest crowd of the season so far in Russia.
Spartak extended its winning streak to five games after edging past Severstal in overtime. The victory lifts Oleg Znarok’s team to fourth in the Western Conference, ahead of Dynamo Moscow and Dinamo Minsk.
However, it might have been a different story. The opening couple of minutes saw Severstal put plenty of pressure on the home net. Julius Hudacek, up against his former club, made several saves to keep the scoreline blank before the home offense got going. But once Alexander Nikishin got into the game, things began to change. The Spartak man fashioned the first opportunity for his team, beating two opponents and testing Vladislav Podyapolsky in the visitor’s net. His second attempt was more fruitful: Podyapolsky could only parry the shot towards Sergei Shirokov, who stuffed the puck into the net.
A couple of minutes later, it was 2-0. A swift counter from the home team saw Maxim Mayorov set up Martin Bakos for the second goal of the night. But Severstal dug in and reduced the deficit late in the first period with a short-handed goal from Alexander Petunin, who exploited an error from Yakov Rylov and broke away to beat Hudacek.
The middle frame began with Maxim Tsyplakov extended Spartak’s lead with a wrister from the right-hand channel. That ended Podyapolsky’s evening, with Dmitry Shugayev coming to the crease to replace him. Hudacek was the busier of the goalies, making 10 stops and seeing his defensemen block eight more, but the balance of possession and territory was far more even as the Steelmen adopted a shoot-on-sight policy.
Early in the third, Severstal successfully killed a 3-on-5 penalty — albeit with the help of the piping. Then, once back to full strength, the visitor pulled a goal back thanks to Kirill Kapustin. Next came a Spartak penalty and on the power play Petunin got his second of the game to tie it up at 3-3 with six minutes to play. Petunin got his stick to a shot from Vladislav Kodola and steered the puck past Hudacek to shatter Spartak’s hopes of easing to victory in the closing stages.
The home team almost won it late in the game when Jori Lehtera got the rebound from a Lukas Radil shot, but Shugayev smothered the danger to take the action into overtime. The understudy goalie was beaten at last in the 63rd minute when Tsyplakov got his second of the game to secure the points for the Red-and-Whites.