‘Never change a winning team,’ they say, but Sibir swapped seven players out of its roster for the visit of Lokomotiv, despite winning its previous two home games and enjoying a run of six victories in seven. Lokomotiv, meanwhile, was looking to bounce back after defeat in Kazakhstan. The Railwaymen also wanted to end a long-standing hoodoo, having failed to win in Novosibirsk since 2014. Today’s game was also notable for Lokomotiv forward Yegor Averin, who became only the eighth player to appear in 700 KHL games.
Sibir made the brighter start and deservedly went in front midway through the first period. Juuso Puustinen took up a good position in front of the net and touched Jyrki Jokipakka’s shot beyond Eddie Pasquale. Loko responded before the intermission when Pavel Kraskovsky stripped Alexander Sharov of the puck and went on to beat Harri Sateri. Kraskovsky then gave the visitor the lead in the second period when he converted Anton Lander’s pass from behind the net. Sibir almost tied it up, by Danil Romantsev’s shot rang the iron with Pasquale beaten.
That looked costly when Vladimir Tkachyov made it 3-1 on an odd-man rush early in the third, but Sibir found a way back into the game. A power play midway through the period saw Romantsev have a goal ruled out for offside before successfully found the net to make it 2-3. Within a couple of minutes, Ilya Khokhlov’s long pass unpicked the Loko defense and Oleg Li’s powerful shot tied the game. However, Loko quelled the revival and the game went into overtime, where Yegor Korshkov sealed the win for the visitor.
Goaltender Joni Ortio pulled off a superb performance in the shoot-out to deny his former club, Vityaz. The Finn saw his team battle back from 0-2 to tie this game, then won all five of his duels to secure a fourth straight win for the playoff chasing Kazakhs.
Vityaz is also desperate for points to stay in the playoff race in the West, and the visitor made a fast start to this game when Linus Hultstrom opened the scoring in the fifth minute. However, Barys looked the better side in the first period, without finding a way past Ilya Ezhov. The home team’s problems got worse in the second period when Kaspars Daugavins added a short-handed goal.
Maybe the visitor concluded that penalties were nothing to be feared after that: certainly there was a rush of Vityaz players heading to the box as the session came to an end, and Matt Frattin duly delivered the punishment just before the break. Early in the third, Roman Starchenko tied it up and the game was destined for overtime. With no further scoring, it fell to Ortio to bring home the W for Barys. He got the better of all five Vityaz penalty-takers in the shoot-out, before Filip Varone potted the winner for the home team.
Avtomobilist’s slump is starting to take on epic proportions. Today’s loss made it eight in a row for the Motormen, let down by the offense as Ak Bars had a shut-out win. It’s the third time in those eight games that Avto has failed to score; Bill Peters and his team have celebrated just nine goals in that time. After allowing seven at the other end in the previous game against Dynamo, Peters also handed a debut to recent signing Korbinian Holzer, a German international signed last month from the NHL.
A shut-out didn’t mean that Ak Bars goalie Adam Reideborn had a quiet time of things, though. The Swede stopped 29 shots in a game that was evenly-contested. Among his more notable stops was a big effort to deny Anatoly Golyshev at the end of the second period, with Reideborn doing just enough to squeeze the puck outside the post under intense pressure.
However, the game was decided by two goals midway through the third period. First, Stanislav Galiyev spotted a gap in the Avtomobilist defense and took up a great position on the doorstep. From there, he redirected Nikita Lyamkin’s point shot into the net with the visitors guilty of losing track of the forward. Then Lyamkin was involved again, exchanging passes with Stephane Da Costa before the Frenchman rifled home from a tight angle. Earlier in the play Viktor Tikhonov lost his stick, but still managed to move the puck to Da Costa from behind the net.
Avtomobilist battled to the end, and a last-minute shot dinged the Ak Bars crossbar during a 6-on-4 storm. But, at the moment, nothing is going right for the Ural team.
Avangard was denied a seventh successive victory when Severstal grabbed a shoot-out verdict. And it was an important victory for the Steelmen, moving Andrei Razin’s team to sixth in the West, three clear of ninth-placed Vityaz. Avangard, meanwhile, lost a little ground on Eastern Conference leader Ak Bars but remains four points clear at the top of the Chernyshev Division.
Although Avangard arrived in excellent form, there were few clear chances in the first period. The visitor had more of the puck but found it hard to create opportunities. Indeed, the most dangerous moment came when Simon Hrubec made a poor clearance, only for the home offense to fluff its lines.
In the second period Severstal contributed far more to the attack and outshot Avangard 15-7. However, it took another goaltending blunder to break the deadlock a few seconds before the intermission. Hrubec got caught out behind his net, and Kirill Kapustin set up Denis Vikharev for the opening goal.
Avangard responded early in the third. Nail Yakupov tied the game with his fourth goal for Avangard, firing home the rebound after Reid Boucher’s shot was blocked by Dmitry Shugayev. The visitor was happy to bang in shots throughout the final frame, but could not find a winner. It was similar in overtime, at least until a penalty on Sergei Shumakov gave Severstal the initiative for a time. However, the teams battled each other to a standstill and it took an Alexander Petunin shoot-out winner to settle the issue in the host’s favor.