Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Avangard powered to a big win at Kunlun Red Star and closed the gap on Eastern Conference leader Ak Bars, despite home forward Hunter Shinkaruk setting a club record. Elsewhere in Moscow Region, Vityaz welcomed fans back to its games and celebrated with a 2-1 victory over illness-hit Jokerit. Barys took an overtime verdict away from Torpedo, while HC Sochi had a big fightback at Dinamo Riga, clawing back from 1-4 down to win in overtime.

Dragons pay the penalty despite Shinkaruk’s record run

Kunlun Red Star 1 Avangard Omsk 5 (0-0, 1-3, 0-2)

Avangard’s power play was the decisive force in this game, claiming four of the five goals and relegating Hunter Shinkaruk’s KRS club record to a footnote.

Photo: 21.12.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Kunlun Red Star (Beijing) - Avangard (Omsk)

The Canadian forward extended his hot streak to eight games — an all-time best for the KHL’s newest club — with an assist as Ethan Werek tied the score early in the second period. At the time, with the Dragons looking competitive in the game, it felt like a big part of the evening’s narrative. By the end of the night, though, the Hawks ensured that the story was at the other end of the ice.

The first period saw Red Star shining brighter: two early Avangard penalties handed the host the momentum and it was down to the visitor’s league-leading PK to keep the scoresheet blank at the first intermission. Early in the second, a first power play for the Hawks enabled Kirill Semyonov to open the scoring, but it wasn’t long before Shinkaruk’s surge around the back of the net ended with Werek converting from the doorstep.

That was as good as it got for the Dragons, though. Jiri Sekac restored the lead late in the middle frame, then Avangard needed just seven seconds on the power play for Alexander Khokhlachyov to make it 3-1 at the second intermission. The third period was a niggly affair: these teams may have their roots in Beijing and Omsk, but temporarily they are fractious neighbors on the outskirts of Moscow, and tempers quickly frayed. Home frustrations took their toll late in the game and a full two-minutes of 5-on-3 play enabled Avangard to score twice more through Corban Knight and a second of the game for Sekac. There was still time for one last brawl, with Klim Kostin ejected from the game late on for over-enthusiastically sharing his opinions after Werek and Nikita Komarov traded blows.

Lilja grabs overtime winner

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 Barys Nur-Sultan 3 OT (1-2, 0-0, 1-0, 0-1)

Torpedo salvaged a point from this Eastern Conference playoff battle with a late leveller — but Barys hit back at the start of overtime to take a win that moves Yury Mikhailis and his team to within two points of tonight’s host.

Photo: 21.12.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod) - Barys (Nur-Sultan)

The Kazakhs may well feel the gap should be just one point after leading 2-0 at one stage in the first period. Matt Frattin opened the scoring in the 16th minute and it wasn’t long before Darren Dietz doubled that lead. Dietz now has two goals in two games since his return from injury, Barys won both encounters in overtime. The captain’s value to his team is all too clear.

However, Torpedo has a reputation as a team that never knows when it is beaten. Anton Shenfeld pulled a goal back just before the hooter and the game remained a 1-2 until deep into the third. Barys had the puck in the net for a third time, but the referee’s arm was already raised and the effort was whistled off in favor of a slashing call on Jakob Lilja. That enabled Torpedo to go 6-on-4 in the closing stages and Mikhail Varnakov obliged with the tying goal, confirmed by a video review. However, Lilja had the last laugh, potting the winner after just 23 seconds of overtime.

Shortbenched Jokerit slips up at Vityaz

Vityaz Moscow Region 2 Jokerit Helsinki 1 (0-0, 2-0, 0-1)

Jokerit missed the chance to pull away from ninth placed Vityaz after a second loss of the season in Podolsk. Instead of climbing to seventh in the table and opening a four-point gap over the closest playoff chaser, the Finns remain in eighth, level on points with tonight’s opponent.

Jokerit’s problems began on Friday, when several members of the team tested positive for coronavirus or were sidelined with other injuries. Absentees included head coach Lauri Marjamaki and a host of players — Niklas Jensen, Alex Grant, Tommi Kivisto, Henrik Haapala, Jonathan Pudas and Brian O’Neill. Eeli Tolvanen’s absence is permanent: the young forward’s loan spell is over and he returned to North America last week. Jokerit was left with just five defenseman and had to play three-line hockey with a couple of raw youngsters listed on a notional fourth line to add some depth to the bench.

In the first period, though, that mattered little. Jokerit took the early initiative and arguably should have taken the lead as well, were it not for an impressive display from home goalie Anton Todykov. He would finish with 52 saves on the night. However, it wasn’t long before Vityaz got on top in the middle frame. The Finns made a mess of clearing their lines and Alexander Semin was on hand to take advantage. Mikhail Smolin doubled the lead — helped by a deflection — just after the midway mark and a shortbenched Jokerit was left with too much to do. Marko Anttila pulled a goal back late in the game, but there was not enough left to save the game.

Sochi rallies from 1-4, wins in overtime

Dinamo Riga 5 HC Sochi 6 OT (3-1, 1-1, 1-3, 0-1)

Neither Dinamo nor Sochi are in close proximity to the playoff places — going into today’s game, the Leopards were 13 points adrift of Jokerit while the Latvians were 11 points further back. But there is plenty of pride to play for, even at the foot of the table, and Riga was looking to defeat Sochi for the first time this season after losing three previous meetings.

Photo: 21.12.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Dinamo (Riga) - HC Sochi (Sochi)

The home team got off to a perfect start, with a too many men penalty on the visitor helping Roberts Bukarts open the scoring on 1:49. That lead was short-lived, though. Nikita Tochitsky tied the game in the fifth minute and starting goalie Stanislav Galimov was replaced by 18-year-old rookie Bruno Bruveris, making his first KHL appearance off the bench. Dinamo then chased Sochi’s starting goalie, Maxim Tretyak, with two goals in the last minute of the first period. Evgeny Grachyov and Gleb Zyryanov found the net to give the Latvians a 3-1 lead.

Things got even better for the home team in the second period when Ernests Osineiks scored his first KHL goal to extend the lead. The 19-year-old has secured himself a regular place on the Dinamo defense this season and found the net for the first time in his 29th game of the campaign. However, a power play goal from Kirill Petkov enabled Sochi to stay in contention as the second intermission arrived.

When Yury Alexandrov made it 4-3 at the start of the third period, the outcome was wide open. And the visitor pressed home its advantage with two goals in a minute midway through the frame. Alexandrov tied it up with his second of the night before Vasily Glotov stole the puck and hared up the ice to put his team ahead for the first time in the game. That wasn’t enough, though. Lauris Darzins hauled Dinamo level in the 59th minute and took the game to overtime.

The extras went to Sochi, though. 17 skated away from Reece Scarlett and after his first shot was saved, Igor Rudenkov was on hand to sweep home the rebound and give the Leopards the win.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
Barys (Nur-Sultan) Barys (Nur-Sultan)
Vityaz (Moscow Region) Vityaz (Moscow Region)
Dinamo (Riga) Dinamo (Riga)
Jokerit (Helsinki) Jokerit (Helsinki)
Kunlun Red Star (Beijing) Kunlun Red Star (Beijing)
HC Sochi (Sochi) HC Sochi (Sochi)
Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod) Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod)
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