Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Nikita Soshnikov got the game-winner on his CSKA debut, but the Army Men had a tough time against Kunlun Red Star, clawing back a 0-2 deficit against the team at the foot of the Eastern Conference. If CSKA found it hard against Red Star, the Eastern Conference leader had an even worse time of it, going down 0-3 at Avangard for the second time in two weeks. Three more games finished as shut-outs, with Sibir, Barys and Torpedo claiming 2-0 verdicts over Spartak, Sochi and Traktor respectively. The other games produced big wins. Dinamo Minsk scored five on Neftekhimik, Lokomotiv did the same against Severstal and Metallurg went one better on the road at Dynamo Moscow.

Sateri silences Spartak

Sibir Novosibirsk 2 Spartak Moscow 0 (1-0, 1-0, 0-0)

Spartak’s recent stuttering form continued, with Oleg Znarok’s team suffering a fourth loss in five games. During that time, goals have been hard to come by: apart from a 5-3 win at Sochi, the Red-and-Whites haven’t managed to score more than twice in a game, and today they were blanked by Harri Sateri and the home defense.

One of Spartak’s problems has been on the power play, which has consistently misfired during the team’s struggles. Today’s first penalty for Sibir brought a goal — but at the other end. Martin Bakos stumbled on the blue line, Danil Romantsev stole the puck and released Oleg Li for the opening score of the game midway through the first period.

The game continued with both teams enjoying spells of pressure but struggling to create clear chances. Sibir extended its lead in the second period, with Ilya Khokhlov’s wrist shot from long range taking a deflection that beat Julius Hudacek in the visitor’s net. That left Spartak with too much to do in the third. Sibir was able to manage the game and preserve its two-goal lead, Sateri secured his second shut-out of the season.

Sochi pays the penalty

Barys Nur-Sultan 2 HC Sochi 0 (2-0, 0-0, 0-0)

Both teams enjoyed a much-needed boost ahead of this game, collecting their first wins in a long time. However, Sochi’s satisfaction at defeating Dinamo Riga on Saturday was tempered by the departure of Swedish forward Malte Stromwall, who left for SKA after scoring twice against the Latvians.

Barys, meanwhile, ended its five-game skid with a 2-1 win over Spartak and stayed in contention for a playoff place despite its tough recent run. And today it consolidated that success, blanking Sochi and collecting the verdict thanks to a quickfire salvo midway through the first period. The visitor had made a solid start to the game but ran into penalty trouble and Barys got a 5-on-3 power play. That led to two goals. Roman Starchenko broke the deadlock, then Jakob Lilja doubled the lead. For the Swede, that was the third successive game on the scoresheet.

That was the end of the scoring. Subsequently, the teams largely cancelled each other out — much as they did before that double penalty. Late in the game, Barys hit the post on another power play, while Sochi struggled to test Henrik Karlsson in the home net.

Avangard blanks Ak Bars again

Avangard Omsk 3 Ak Bars Kazan 0 (1-0, 2-0, 0-0)

Avangard picked up its second win over Ak Bars in the space of little over a week — and produced a repeat of the 3-0 scoreline we saw last time out. That makes it six straight wins for the Hawks and closes the gap to the Eastern Conference leader to just two points.

Photo: 01.12.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Avangard (Omsk) - Ak Bars (Kazan)

Eager to atone for last week’s loss, Ak Bars started with plenty of energy. In Artyom Lukoyanov’s case, maybe too much energy. He was called for interference in the first minute, and Avangard took advantage to score on its first power play of the game. Oliwer Kaski, back in the team in place of Jiri Sekac, got the goal; the Finnish defenseman picked out a well-placed wrist shot after advancing from the blue line.

Subsequently the teams exchanged chances, although the better opportunities fell to the host. At the start of the second session, Ak Bars again tried to raise the tempo but, again, failed to beat Simon Hrubec. Avangard had to absorb plenty of pressure in the middle frame — outshot 16-7 by the visitor, but the Czech was in fine form to frustrate the likes of Danis Zaripov — playing his 750th KHL game today — and Nigel Dawes, a hat-trick hero on Sunday.

Late in the frame, Avangard extended its lead. Corban Knight got the second, pouncing on the rebound after Dmitry Yudin attempted to get the puck clear of the Ak Bars net. A couple of minutes later, Knight was among the helpers as Ville Pokka added a third. From that point, there was no way back for Ak Bars as Bob Hartley’s team closed out the game professionally to seal the points.

Minsk continues to rise

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 1 Dinamo Minsk 5 (0-3, 0-1, 1-1)

These are heady times for Minsk, with Craig Woodcroft’s team continuing to defy its critics and keep itself firmly in contention for a top-four finish in the West. A convincing victory over Neftekhimik returned the Belarusians to fourth in the table, ahead of Dynamo Moscow.

The damage was done in the first period. Yegor Sharangovich opened the scoring after 68 seconds and Neftekhimik contributed to its own downfall after taking two penalties in quick succession as the first period drew towards a close. Sharangovich got his second of the night on that power play, but not before Shane Prince scored during the 5-on-3 advantage. Dinamo led 3-0 and the home team was already looking beaten.

Nothing in the middle frame really changed that perception. Neftekhimik was unable to generate much offense, and Prince extended the lead with his second of the night late in the session. A power play goal from Andrei Kostitsyn in the 48th minute offered a glimmer of hope for the home team, but that was swiftly extinguished when Yegor Martynov made it 5-1.

Loko too strong for Severstal

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 5 Severstal Cherepovets 1 (1-0, 1-1, 3-0)

Lokomotiv’s recent run of patchy form prompted the Railwaymen to look at a trade. Teemu Pulkkinen was the incoming forward, taken from Dynamo Moscow as Magnus Paajarvi Svensson went the other way. Pulkkinen did not dress for Tuesday’s game, but he saw his new team-mates produce a convincing win over Severstal.

Alexei Marchenko opened the scoring early in the game, joining the rush and finishing off a Loko attack to claim the only goal of the first period. Early in the second, Nikolai Kovalenko doubled the lead when his one-timer converted Denis Alexeyev’s feed from behind the net. That made it two goals in two games for the young Loko forward, but Severstal’s Alexander Polunin is on an even longer streak. His power play goal put him on the scoresheet for the seventh game running and offered the visitor a way back into contention.

However, in the third period, Lokomotiv firmly closed the door on Severstal’s hopes of getting anything from this game. First, the home team killed a 3-on-5 penalty, with Severstal lacking the guile to unpick a well-drilled PK. Back at full strength, Pavel Kraskovsky added a third for the home team, then Georgy Ivanov touched home a piledriver from Denis Barantsev to convert a power play midway through the frame. When Severstal got another PP in the 56th minute, head coach Andrei Razin gambled and sent on an extra skater. But the gambit backfired and Yegor Averin’s empty-net goal completed the rout.

Zhafyarov maintains his scoring streak

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 Traktor Chelyabinsk 0 (1-0, 0-0, 1-0)

Is Traktor’s impressive run at an end? The Chelyabinsk team hit a hot streak in November, threatening to challenge Eastern Conference leader Ak Bars as it reeled off win after win. Now, though, defeat at Torpedo means Anvar Gatiyatulin’s team has lost three from four. Suddenly, Traktor looks to be heading back into the chasing pack rather than setting a course to the summit.

Torpedo, meanwhile, posted a fourth victory in five games, showing signs of the consistency that so often eludes David Nemirovsky’s men. It’s a run that has come at the right time: with Sibir and Barys both showing signs of improvement recently, these wins are keeping Torpedo in the top eight in the East.

The goals came early and late. Anton Shenfeld opened the scoring in the seventh minute, then Damir Zhafyarov added a second in the 56th. The forward is red hot at the moment. This was his eighth game among the points, and he’s compiled 11 (7+4) points in that time. At the other end, Andrei Tikhomirov stopped 28 shots for his first shut-out of the season.

Soshnikov makes an instant impact

CSKA Moscow 3 Kunlun Red Star 2 OT (0-1, 0-1, 2-0, 1-0)

Nikita Soshnikov’s move to CSKA was the big talking point in the KHL in recent days and the former Ufa forward continued to write the headlines with the game-winner over Kunlun. The 27-year-old struck in overtime, circling through the Dragons’ zone and beating Dmitry Shikin to finally end some spirited resistance from the visitor.

Although the teams were separated by almost the full KHL table, there was little to choose between them on the ice. Red Star set up to absorb the pressure from CSKA and take its chances on the counter, and that saw the visitor open a 2-0 lead. First, with Soshnikov in the box, Ryan Sproul scored a power play goal. Then, at the start of the second period, Vyacheslav Leshchenko struck on the wraparound. At the other end, Dmitry Shikin was playing out of his skin, with Maxim Mamin frequently frustrated by the excellence of the visiting netminder.

The resistance could not last forever. CSKA hit back in the third period, with Sergei Andronov and Bogdan Kiselevich tying the game. Even then, the Dragons held on to secure a point before Soshnikov won it for the Army Men in overtime.

Chibisov’s third double

Dynamo Moscow 2 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 6 (1-1, 0-3, 1-2)

Andrei Chibisov is currently the KHL’s in-form forward. In each of his last three games, the Metallurg man has scored twice as Magnitka plays its way back into form after a long spell of indifferent results.

Photo: 01.12.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Dynamo (Moscow) - Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

Here, Chibisov’s first goal came midway through the second period. He snapped a 1-1 tie and ushered in a goal rush for the Steelmen that put this game out of Dynamo’s reach. Dennis Rasmussen — assisted by Chibisov — and Arkhip Nekolenko extended the lead to 4-1 before the intermission and Nikolai Prokhorkin added a fifth moments after the restart.

Chibisov added a sixth in the closing minutes, but the home team had the final say when young Ilya Kruglov got his first of the season. Dynamo also handed a debut to new signing Magnus Paajarvi Svensson, just arrived from Lokomotiv. But the Swede had little chance to make an impact against an impressive Metallurg.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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