Andy Potts Andy Potts
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The most dramatic game of the day was in Moscow, where Dynamo rallied from 0-3 down to beat Lokomotiv in overtime. SKA almost matched that, recovering from 0-2 to win 3-2 at Severstal. Mikhail Varnakov struck twice as Torpedo defeated Jokerit, getting his 200th goal for the club in the process. There was also a double for Corban Knight in Avangard’s 4-2 win over Amur as the Hawks maintain their good form, but Avtomobilist fell to a fourth successive defeat after missing out in overtime at Traktor. There was overtime in Minsk, too, as Dinamo overcame Vityaz, while table-topping CSKA eased to a 4-1 win at Sochi.

Fourth straight win for Avangard

Avangard Omsk 4 Amur Khabarovsk 2 (2-1, 1-0, 1-1)

Avangard kept up its impressive recent form, recording a fourth successive win at home to Amur. Two goals and an assist from Corban Knight led the way for the Hawks, with both Reid Boucher and Yegor Chinakhov posting 1+1.

Photo: 26.11.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Avangard (Omsk) - Amur (Khabarovsk)

The latter pair got the home team off to a flying start. Boucher opened the scoring after four minutes, converting Denis Zernov’s pass. Zernov spoke during the week about how his team’s previous game against Ak Bars — played in Moscow in front of spectators — reminded him how much he missed playing in front of a crowd. Back behind closed in Balashikha, though, he and his team-mates showed no ill-effects.

Barely a minute later, the home team doubled the lead with a power play effort from Chinakhov, assisted by Knight. Amur got on the scoreboard late in the first period through Valentin Pyanov, a former Avangard player, and at the start of the middle frame the visitor had some presentable chances to tie the game, but failed to find the net. Then, for the second time in the game, the Hawks’ power play hit the spot as Chinakhov and Boucher combined to set up Knight for his first of the evening.

Midway through the third, Hynek Zohorna made it 2-3 and kept Amur hoping for a way back into the game. However, it wasn’t t be. Knight’s empty netter sealed the win as Avangard continues to close on the leading positions in the East.

... and a fourth straight loss for Avto

Traktor Chelyabinsk 4 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 OT (1-1, 1-1, 1-1, 1-0)

While Avangard is upwardly mobile, Avtomobilist’s progress is in danger of stalling. The Motormen went down to a fourth successive defeat in Chelyabinsk, where Traktor bounced back from a 2-5 loss at the hands of Dynamo in its previous game.

The game itself was hard fought, and the lead changed hands frequently. Traktor had three power plays in the first period, and the third of them saw Lukas Sedlak open the scoring when he defly touched a Pontus Aberg shot beyond the reach of Vladimir Galkin. However, it wasn’t long before Avto got a power play of its own and just 64 seconds after falling behind the visitor’s top line tied it up as Alexei Makeyev found the net.

Midway through the game, Avto went ahead when Pavel Datsyuk and Anatoly Golyshev picked their way through the home defense and Georgy Belousov finished off the play. Once again, though, the lead was short-lived. Tomas Hyka quickly tied it up ahead of the second intermission.

Peter Holland restored the Motormen’s lead midway through the third after a good pass from Dan Sexton, but Traktor has plenty of confidence after a long winning run and kept believing that an equalizer would come despite failing twice on the power play. With 58 seconds left on the clock, that belief was vindicated; Aberg sent the game to overtime.

The extras were curious. Both teams played cautiously, as if they were eying a shoot-out rather than looking to gamble on a winning play in the additional five minutes. So it came as something of a surprise when Sergei Kalinin served up the decisive goal and prolonged Avtomobilist’s skid.

SKA escapes from 0-2

Severstal Cherepovets 2 SKA St. Petersburg 3 (0-0, 2-0, 0-3)

Two weeks after backstopping SKA to a shut-out win in Cherepovets, goalie Magnus Hellberg was back and looking for more success. This time the Swede could not repeat his perfect performance but still ended on the winning team after a big fightback in the third period.

The opening stanza produced no goals, but there was a fight between Shawn Lalonde and Evgeny Ketov which ended up with the SKA man bleeding from his face. Both players sat for five to cool their heels after that skirmish.

Severstal opened the scoring in the second, with Alexander Petunin extending his productive streak to five games when he found the net just past the midway point. A couple of minutes later, Daniil Vovchenko’s power play goal extended that lead and SKA was in some trouble.

In the third, though, the visitor turned the game around. A quickfire double from Joonas Kemppainen and Anton Burdasov, the latter on the power play, tied the scores. Then, in the 54th minute, Ketov put the Army Men ahead for the first time. That goal, plus some big saves from Hellberg in the closing stages, gave SKA the points.

Afanasyev scores on Sochi again

HC Sochi 1 CSKA Moscow 4 (1-2, 0-1, 0-1)

Last time these teams met, the Army Men powered to a 7-0 victory in Moscow and Yegor Afanasyev potted a goal on his KHL debut. Today, Afanasyev scored again but, after a worrying start, Sochi managed to keep the scoreline a bit more respectable.

The 2,000 or so fans who came to the Bolshoy Ice Dome had good reason to fear for the Leopards in this game. Apart from that heavy loss in Moscow, the home team was on a sticky run of just one win in eight games. So when CSKA scored twice in the 10th minute, there was every prospect of another rout. However, Sergei Shmelyov delivered a quick response to those markers from Mat Robinson and Anton Slepyshev, and the game was still alive.

Afanasyev’s enjoyment of this opponent continued at the start of the second period when he potted his second goal in the KHL. That secured the breathing space that Igor Nikitin’s team needed in a middle frame that saw Sochi produce a competitive performance without finding the goal it so badly needed. The third period was more of the same, with the Leopards dominating the action — a 13-3 shot count tells the story — but failing to score. The game was wrapped up when Maxim Shalunov found the empty net. CSKA shrugged off any ill-effects from a heavy loss at home to Sibir.

Spooner leads Minsk to victory

Dinamo Minsk 4 Vityaz Moscow Region 3 OT (1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 1-0)

A lively game in Belarus ended in victory for the home team, with Vityaz frustrated after a good performance against one of the West’s form teams. Coming into Thursday’s action, the teams’ recent results were a mirror image: Minsk had five wins and one loss from its previous six, Vityaz mustered just a solitary victory over the same time.

However, the visitor was only three minutes away from improving on that record here. Third-period goals from Artyom Borodkin and Mattias Tedenby gave Vityaz a 3-2 lead; Dinamo led twice earlier in the game but now found itself battling to salvage the evening.

Ryan Spooner was the man for that job. After opening the scoring in the first period, the Canadian forward got his second goal of the game to tie the scores. It’s a somewhat unusual return for Spooner, whose scoring tends to come in assists. He has 19 helpers this season, while today’s double moves him to four goals.

The winning goal also went to a player less noted for finding the net. Roman Gorbunov has played a supporting role on the Dinamo roster so far this season, but his second goal of the campaign secured the overtime verdict here.

Varnakov’s 200th Torpedo goal

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 3 Jokerit Helsinki 2 (0-1, 2-0, 1-1)

Jokerit’s three-game winning streak was halted in Nizhny Novgorod, where Mikhail Varnakov achieved a landmark 200th goal.

The Finns got ahead in this game in the first period thanks to Eeli Tolvanen. However, the scoreline was possibly misleading: Torpedo outshot the visitor 14-7 and could feel aggrieved to be behind at the intermission.

Shortly after the break, though, Varnakov tied the scores with his 200th goal for Torpedo. A long-time servant of his hometown team, he has also found the net in the colors of SKA, Ak Bars and Dynamo Moscow in a career that started even before the KHL was founded. Once Varnakov got his team on the scoreboard, it wasn’t long before Andrei Belevich put the home team ahead. Damir Zhafyarov’s helper on that goal extended his productive streak to six games.

Midway through the third, Marko Anttila scored a typically robust goal from the slot to tie the scores. Now the visitor looked to be getting on top of the game, and it was Torpedo’s turn to soak up the pressure. But this was to be Varnakov’s day; the veteran forward grabbed the winning goal in the 57th minute.

Dynamo delivers late in the game

Dynamo Moscow 4 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3 OT (0-0, 0-3, 3-0, 1-0)

SKA’s fightback from 0-2 was impressive, but Dynamo went one better as it retrieved a three-goal margin to defeat Lokomotiv. The Blue-and-Whites scored three times in the latter half of the third period to tie this game, then celebrated an overtime winner from Michal Cajkovsky.

Photo: 26.11.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Dynamo (Moscow) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

There was little sign of the excitement to come in an even but goalless first period. Then, after the intermission, Lokomotiv took control. Artur Kayumov opened the scoring within a minute of the restart and the Railwaymen tightened the screws when Rushan Rafikov and Anton Lander took that lead out to 3-0.

Midway through the third period, it looked like Loko had done enough. Dynamo was struggling to create chances and its game plan was disrupted by the need to kill two penalties. Then came a glimmer of a chance. Georgy Ivanov took a penalty for the visitor and Oscar Lindberg started the fightback. The Swede might have halted it almost immediately, though, when he took a penalty of his own and left his team to escape another dangerous situation.

Perhaps Lokomotiv needed to look harder for the fourth goal at that stage. Instead, the visitor ran down the clock, only to hit trouble of its own when Nikita Cherepanov followed Nikolai Kovalenko into the box. Dynamo seized the chance: Dmitry Kagarlitsky pulled another goal back during the 5-on-3 power play, then Vadim Shipachyov tied the scores as the home team went 6-on-4.

The psychological advantage was firmly with the home team now and in overtime, Dynamo sealed the win. Cajkovsky got the goal, Dmitrij Jaskin collected his third assist of the game and the Blue-and-Whites improved to four wins from five.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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