Ak Bars left it late to get ahead in a hard-fought ‘road’ game played in Kazan. There was almost nothing to choose between the teams in the first two periods, but the visitor scored three times in the last five minutes to record a sixth successive victory and move ahead of CSKA at the top of the KHL standings.
The game was rearranged for this date due to Jokerit’s early season quarantine. Two days earlier, the teams met in Kazan for Ak Bars’ scheduled home game against the Finns. Giving up home advantage — de facto, if not de jure — enabled Jokerit to get the game played with the minimum of further disruption. It didn’t mean we saw the same rosters, though. Jakub Krejcik and Aleksi Halme returned to the Jokerit roster, while talismanic forward Brian O’Neill missed out through injury. Ak Bars, meanwhile, had to adapt after three players — Nikita Lyamkin, Dmitry Yudin and Dmitry Voronkov — joined up with Team Russia.
Jokerit got in front midway through the first period. Viktor Loov’s pass unpicked the visiting defense and Eeli Tolvanen was well placed to lift the puck over Timur Bilyalov’s flailing stick. However, there was not much difference between the two teams in that opening frame — nine shots on goal apiece, although Jokerit had more time on the attack — and it was no huge surprise to see Ak Bars tie the scores in the second period. This was the first of three power play goals, with Stephane Da Costa needing just 12 seconds to punish Henri Ikonen’s indiscretion. Nigel Dawes played a fine pass from one circle to the other and his French team-mate rifled home.
The third frame was as closely fought as the previous two, but when Tommi Kivisto and Marko Anttila went to the box in quick succession, Ak Bars got a chance to win it. Dawes converted the 5-on-3 advantage, with Da Costa supplying the feed. The power play continued, and Da Costa got his second of the game to take the result away from the home team. Jakub Krejcik’s attempted clearance from behind the goal line went straight to the Ak Bars forward, and his shot found Janis Kalnins guarding the wrong post. Kirill Petrov added an empty net goal to complete the win and repeat the scoreline from Saturday’s game between the teams.