When Metallurg turned to Mike Pelino, inviting him to return to Magnitogorsk and help Ilya Vorobyov give his struggling team a lift, this was something like what the management had in mind. A rousing third period secured a much-needed victory, captain Sergei Mozyakin was back to his best with a goal and two assists, and a couple of late tallies from Andrei Chibisov completed a fight back from 1-4.
This was an important win. Previously, Magnitka had just two wins in 10 games and there was a sense that the club was lurching into crisis. Pelino’s return may or may not be the long-term answer, but the way the team finished Friday’s game offers hope for better things to come. Admittedly, that hope looked remote midway through the game when Andrei Chivilev made it 4-1 to the visitor. Neftekhimik started well, opening a 2-0 lead in the first period before Mozyakin pulled one back on the power play. In the second, Marat Khairullin scored a power play goal for the visitor before Chivilev opened up a big lead.
But Metallurg did not dwell on its problems. Within a couple of minutes, Taylor Beck and Yegor Yakovlev made it a one-goal game once again and there was everything to play for at the start of the third period.
True, it took some time to finish the job off. The first half of the final frame was an even battle, and time was beginning to run out for the home team. A penalty for Alexander Loginov changed all that: it took just 30 seconds for Andrej Nestrasil to convert the power play and tie the game. Then, in the closing minutes, Chibisov scored twice to give his team the all-important win.
As November draws to a close, Kunlun Red Star is using its last two home games this month to promote the ‘Movember’ fundraiser in support of men’s health issues. That’s a theme particularly pertinent to Friday’s opposition, Sibir, who sadly lost defenseman Samvel Mnatsyan to cancer last October, aged just 29.
On the ice, it was a battle between two teams in contrasting form. Red Star was looking to avoid a 10th successive defeat, while Sibir won its last four. However, the big incident in a goalless first period was an unhappy one: home defenseman Sam Lofquist had to be stretchered off the ice after falling awkwardly in a three-man collision behind the Sibir net. The American was taken to hospital for further checks.
The second period saw the Dragons put the pressure on the visitor. Vyacheslav Leshchenko dinged one off the bar and David Bondra steered the puck wide of an open net. In between, Lev Starikov scored his first goal in the KHL. The 20-year-old defenseman circled around the Sibir zone before squeezing home a shot from a tight angle.
That proved to be the only goal of the game, with Dmitry Shikin performing wonders in the home net to secure Red Star’s first shut-out of the season and snap that long losing run. Shikin made 47 saves in total, including an incredible stop early in the second period to deny Evgeny Chesalin. He also held on as Sibir picked up a couple of power plays late in the game and looked to press home its advantage against a tiring home defense — one which, of course, was a man short for much of the game after Lofquist’s injury.