Barys snapped a five-game losing streak as it edged past Spartak. Despite the absence of star defenseman Darren Dietz, missing through injury, Yury Mikhailis’ team played its way back to form.
Dietz wasn’t the only change on the line-up. Goalie Henrik Karlsson made his first appearance since Nov. 10. The Swedish-born Kazakh international has endured a tough season so far, and his most recent outing ended ignominiously in a 2-7 loss at Lokomotiv. But today he returned to backstop an important victory.
Initially, the teams played cautiously. Spartak’s recent form has not been hugely impressive either, so it was understandable that neither side wanted to hand over the initiative early in the action. However, once Curtis Valk put Barys in front in the 13th minute, the home team began to look more comfortable in the game.
After the intermission, Spartak sought to raise the tempo. The visitor generated rather more offense but Barys played a thoughtful game and limited the number of good looks at Karlsson’s net. Late in the frame, the home team extended its lead, winning possession by the boards and setting up Jakob Lilja for a clinical finish. The third period continued in similar fashion, with Barys seeking to keep Spartak at arm’s length and close out the win. With six minutes to play, Jori Lehtera created an opportunity for Sergei Shirokov to reduce the deficit but the Red-and-Whites could not finish the job.
Eastern Conference leader Ak Bars keeps rolling out the wins, and Severstal was its latest victim. A Nigel Dawes hat-trick — he also got an assist — lifted Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team to a convincing win against the Steelmen.
Last time out, Kazan needed a shoot-out to win in Magnitogorsk, with Dawes once again prominent for his team. Back on home ice, though, Ak Bars quickly took control of this game. With barely five minutes played, the host led 2-0 thanks to an opening goal from Kirill Petrov, swiftly followed by Dawes’ first of the game. Vladislav Podyapolsky, once of Ak Bars, suffered a brief return to his former club and was benched on 5:11 as Dmitry Shugayev took over between the pipes for Severstal. At the other end, Alexander Petunin took his productive streak to six games when he pulled goal back for the visitor, but Dawes made it 3-1 at the first intermission.
Early in the second period the Kazakh international completed his hat-trick — his first since joining Ak Bars — and it was clear that Severstal’s main ambition would be to keep the scoreline respectable. Andrei Razin’s team managed that, trading goals late in the middle frame, but rarely threatened to disrupt Ak Bars’ progress to victory.
Avangard edged past Kunlun in this Chernyshev Division clash — but a lackluster display from Bob Hartley’s team was close to costing the Hawks. A disallowed goal in the last minutes of the game spared the visitor from overtime as the Dragons were left to curse their luck.
Avangard opened the scoring midway through the first period. Damir Sharipzyanov moved into a dangerous position on the left flank and sent the puck back to Jiri Sekac at the top of the circle. The Czech international saw a shooting lane open for him and squeezed the puck through a crowded slot and into Jeremy Smith’s top corner. The visitor extended its lead late in the first period when a quick breakaway saw Reid Boucher score from close range.
However, the Hawks were unable to take the game away from Red Star and, in a second period studded with penalties, the Dragons got on the scoreboard during a 5-on-3 power play. The home team made good use of the extra manpower, and had players queuing up in front of Simon Hrubec’s net to get on the end of Hunter Shinkaruk’s feed. Ethan Werek applied the finish, and the game was still alive.
Thus inspired, Red Star looked to raise the tempo in the third period. With just over two minutes left, the home team thought it had tied the game. Alexei Toropchenko seized a loose puck on the blue line, surged down the right and got to the net. Hrubec blocked his shot, but Tyler Wong was on hand to put away the rebound. However, a video review ruled the goal out, finding that Toropchenko had not quite managed to keep the puck in the zone before resuming the attack. Avangard was reprieved, the Dragons denied a chance to build on Friday’s 1-0 victory over Sibir.
Neftekhimik, stung by Metallurg’s comeback win on Friday, made no mistake against in-form Traktor. Despite a wobble late in the second period, Vyacheslav Butsayev’s team reasserted itself in the third to secure a much-needed boost.
A goal from Libor Hudacek after 85 seconds set the tone for the home team, but goalie Evgeny Ivannikov had plenty of work to do in the first period as Traktor battled to get back on level terms. After the intermission, though, it was Neftekhimik that pulled away. Bulat Shafigullin scored early and in the 35th minute Marat Khairullin made it 3-0. However, Neftekhimik blew a three-goal lead against Magnitka and almost did the same again. Vyacheslav Osnovin and Sergei Kalinin hit the target late in the middle frame and suddenly it was a one-goal game with the momentum favoring the visitor.
Home forward Pavel Poryadin saw his six-game productive streak end in the loss against Metallurg. However, his goal in the 46th minute was one of his biggest of the season. It restored his team’s two-goal lead and — more importantly — banished memories of the way the Steelmen scored five without reply to turn around Friday’s game. True, Traktor, kept it interesting until the end thanks to a short-handed goal from Lukas Sedlak, but Hudacek hit the empty net to seal the verdict.
Lokomotiv snapped a two-game skid despite letting a two-goal lead slip at home to Dinamo. Pavel Kraskovsky popped up with the game winner in overtime and the Railwaymen earned themselves some breathing space in third place in the West.
Loko had much the better of the first period, outshooting Dinamo 17-7. However, there was only one goal to show for it, with Nikolai Kovalenko opening the scoring in the ninth minute. The youngster showed sharp reactions to tuck away the puck after Pavel Kudryavtsev’s battling on the slot. The second period was more even, but again Lokomotiv got the only goal. This time it was Yegor Averin on the power play late in the frame.
However, Dinamo rallied in the third. Two goals in five minutes brought the game level with Ryan Murphy and Yegor Sharangovich on target. Lokomotiv looked to get back in front, enjoying the better of the closing stages, but Dominik Furch — back on the ice after a short absence in the second period — held firm to earn his team a point. Minsk would get no more, though. Lokomotiv was more willing to shoot during overtime and got its reward with a minute left when Kraskovsky grabbed the winner.
Metallurg continued its recent revival with a spirited display to win at Torpedo. Since announcing the return of Mike Pelino last week, the Steelmen took Ak Bars all the way before producing come-from-behind victories at Neftekhimik and again here. The team’s problems are clearly not completely solved, but the addition of a respected new voice in the locker room seems to be making an impact.
Admittedly, the visitor made things hard for itself at the start. Two penalties in quick succession gave Torpedo a 5-on-3 advantage and although Igor Shvyryov returned safely to the game, Damir Zhafyarov scored towards the end of that extended power play. At the other end, Metallurg’s first power play of the game also brought a reward when Sergei Plotnikov tied the scores. Magnitka kept taking penalties, though, and allowed 21 shots on Juho Olkinuora’s net in a first period that left Torpedo wanting more.
The second period was goalless. Both the penalty tally and the shot count evened out and it started to feel like the next goal would go a long way towards deciding the outcome of the game. Six minutes into the final frame, Metallurg made the breakthrough with Andrei Chibisov, two-goal hero at Neftekhimik, putting the visitor in front. Artyom Zemchyonok extended the lead 10 minutes later and Metallurg was almost safe. There was still time for some late drama, though. Zhafyarov’s second of the night gave Torpedo hope before Chibisov found the empty net to seal Metallurg’s win and make it four goals in two games for him personally.