Pavel Datsyuk returned to action for Avtomobilist, but the Magic Man could not conjure up a victory over Torpedo. Bill Peters’ team slipped to a second successive defeat after going down 0-3 to Ak Bars in its previous outing and missing a chance to close in on the leadership of the Eastern Conference.
For Torpedo, inconsistent throughout the season, victory offered a chance to return to the top eight — but with four teams battling it out either side of the dotted line, the race for a playoff spot this year looks set to be enthralling until the very end.
The first period was goalless — Avtomobilist perhaps feeling something of a hangover after its loss in Kazan. If that was the case, the headache got worse for the home team as Torpedo jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second stanza. Ziyat Paigin and Andy Miele found the net inside five minutes. With the Motormen having completed five periods without a goal, the pressure was increasing on the home team.
However, the host continued to emphasize its attacking play and eventually got a reward in the 34th minute when Peter Holland was given too much space in front of the net and duly took advantage to reduce the deficit. In the third, Torpedo had a goal ruled out by a video review and saw Semyon Der-Arguchintsev spurn a great chance to extend the lead. Immediately after that, Avto tied it up thanks to Anatoly Golyshev and, for the third meeting in a row, these teams were destined for overtime. Golyshev came close to winning it but the game went to a shoot-out. After the first three attempts hit the frame of the goal, Anton Shenfeld delivered the coup de grace as visiting goalie Alexei Melnichuk repelled all attempts at his net.
This was bottom vs top in the Eastern Conference, and the result followed the form guide. Red Star battled hard against Ak Bars, but the gap in class between these teams was clear and the visitor took advantage to extend its lead at the top of the table. The Dragons fell to a seventh successive loss.
In the first period, though, the home team acquitted itself well in an evenly-contested game. There were chances at both ends, but Nigel Dawes was the only player to find the net when he wired a wrister to the top shelf in the ninth minute.
The start of the second period took the game away from the home team as Ak Bars scored two goals in the first two minutes. Kristian Khenkel’s superb pass gave Justin Azevedo the second of the game and Daniil Zhuravlyov soon made it 3-0. Red Star allowed another quick goal in the third, Kirill Petrov the scorer this time.
But there was some consolation for the host when Alexei Toropchenko and Luke Lockhart got it back to 2-4 with goals exactly two minutes apart. For a moment, there was a chance of an outlandish fightback, but Danis Zaripov killed off that prospect with a fifth goal for Ak Bars.
Much like Red Star, Dinamo is marooned at the foot of its conference — so for a Lokomotiv team suffering after three successive losses conclusively halted a long winning run, this was a perfect chance to get back on track. The Railwaymen duly delivered, but took some time to solve the Latvians.
The first period produced no goals and relatively little to choose between the teams. In the second, though, Lokomotiv began to tighten the screws on Riga. Anton Lander was close to opening the scoring during a scrum in front of the net, Vladimir Tkachyov got clean through but could not beat Stanislav Galimov. Then Dinamo began picking up penalties and the second Loko power play paid off. Lander was fastest to react after Atte Ohtamaa’s shot was blocked and the goal stood despite a bench challenge from the Latvians.
Barely a minute later, Loko made it two. Pavel Kudryavtsev got the puck on the edge of the circle, deked past Galimov and slotted the puck into the unguarded corner of the net. The home team’s dominance of the middle stanza was amply rewarded.
Early in the third, Yegor Korshkov skated away from the visiting defense and scored with a backhand shot to make it 3-0. The forward got his ninth goal of the season, and his third in five games. However, that did not inspire a one-sided finale. Instead, Dinamo pulled one back midway through the action thanks to Gleb Zyryanov. That was the end of the scoring as Lokomotiv got the morale-boosting win it needed.
The final scoreline points at a routine victory for Jokerit, but the reality was more like hard work for the Finns. A stubborn Sochi rearguard kept the visitor in this game until the third period.
The Leopards worked hard to close down Jokerit’s offense and for two periods the tactics were deployed perfectly. The Finns mustered just eight efforts on target in 40 minutes, although a Tommi Kivisto effort of the post was the closest either side came to a goal.
Sochi, though, also posed a threat at the other end. An early turnover by Jokerit’s Viktor Loov set up an odd man rush for the visitor in the first minute, where Jere Karjalainen forced Janis Kalnins into a fine save late in the second period.
Alex Grant broke the deadlock at last. The defenseman scored on a delayed penalty just seconds after Karjalainen emerged from the sin bin. Brian O’Neill got an assist on Grant’s point shot and took his productive run to nine games. Sochi then had a great chance to reply when it got a 5-on-3 power play, but Jokerit resisted that onslaught. The next chance for the home team fell to John Norman, who made it 2-0 and effectively closed the book on this game. Peter Regin tied the ribbon on it with a third goal late on while Kalnins secured his first shut-out of the campaign.
Dinamo’s form so far this season has been one of the happiest stories of 2020-2021. After a horrible campaign last term, and despite facing difficulties on and off the ice, Craig Woodcroft’s team has turned itself into a contender in the West.
However, CSKA is a team on another level. If the Belarusians are to turn a promising start into a serious push for honors, Saturday’s game would be a useful indicator of where the Bison stand against the best in the competition.
At the first intermission, the scoreline argued that Dinamo was indeed in contention. A Brandon Kozun shorthanded goal midway through the opening frame separated the teams. However, a closer look betrayed the extent of CSKA’s control. More time on the attack and a big advantage in shots on target (15-6) added up to a suspicion that the lead might not last long unless the balance of play changed as the game went on.
It did not, or at least not sufficiently to hamper the Army Men. Mario Kempe tied the scores with a power play goal early in the second, then the Swede put the visitor ahead late in the frame. In the third, Dmitry Znakharenkowas ejected for head-butting and Dinamo’s penalty troubles present Brendan Leipsic with two power play goals. The Canadian also assisted on CSKA’s opening goal; Kempe returned the favor as his team made it 4-1. Konstantin Okulov completed the rout with a fifth goal before Znakharenko’s time was served. Minsk found itself unable to handle the CSKA power play.