Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Tuesday’s big game lived up to its billing with SKA defeating CSKA in a shoot-out despite allowing two goals in the last two minutes in Petersburg. Jokerit’s problems continued: short of players, the Finns lost 0-4 at Dynamo Moscow. Salavat Yulaev was the top scorer on the day, thrashing Dinamo Minsk 8-3 with Geoff Platt scoring on his Ufa debut. Avtomobilist welcomed fans back to the arena but went down at home to Traktor, Ak Bars won at Spartak and there were home victories for Lokomotiv and Sibir.

Vyacheslav Ushenin haunts former club

Sibir Novosibirsk 3 Amur Khabarovsk 2 (3-0, 0-0, 0-2)

The Ushenin twins recently moved from Amur to Sibir and, as luck would have it, the first game for their new team was against the club they just left. The pair joined another ex-Tiger, Oleg Li, on the fourth line and Vyacheslav duly obliged with the game-winning goal.

He struck late in the first period, off a Li assist, to open a 3-0 lead for the home team. Earlier, Dmitry Sayustov and Nikita Korotkov scored twice in the first five minutes as Sibir took control in the opening stages.

However, Nikolai Zavarukhin’s team was unable to build on that strong start. Ushenin’s power play goal confirmed Sibir’s early dominance, but everything changed in the second period. Amur came back into the game and eventually began to close the gap. Third period goals from Vladimir Butuzov and Denis Golubev made it a one-goal game with four minutes left, but Sibir held on to snap a four-game losing streak.

Fans return but Avto can’t win at home

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 2 Traktor Chelyabinsk 3 (0-1, 1-2, 1-0)

The Motormen hoped they had turned a corner. After losing 10 straight, a 4-0 win at Metallurg lifted spirits around the club. Back home, there was more good news: fans were allowed back in the Uralets Arena after weeks of watching games on a big screen in the carpark. On the ice, though, it was another frustrating evening.

In the first period, the home team looked far more active. Avto topped the shot count 11-4 and was rarely troubled by the visitor. However, that effort was undone when Alexander Protapovich took a penalty and Traktor opened the scoring thanks to Alexei Byvaltsev’s power play goal. And discipline remained a problem. The second period brought two more power play goals for Traktor, with Vitaly Kravtsov getting his 10th of the season before Nick Bailen scored the third of the game.

In between the visitor’s goals, Stanislav Bocharov pulled one back for Avto, but there was still a lot of work to do in the third. However, a series of penalties on Traktor gave the home team hope — until it became clear that while the visitor was primed to take its chances on the PP, the host’s special teams were not clicking into gear. True, Andrei Obidin eventually got the puck in the net, but with just eight seconds left on the clock it was only going to be a consolation effort.

Scoring debut for Platt

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 8 Dinamo Minsk 3 (0-0, 3-1, 5-2)

For the second year running, Salavat Yulaev racked up the goals in its home game with Dinamo Minsk. Last season, this fixture ended 9-1 to Ufa; this time it was slightly less painful for Craig Woodcroft’s team, but not much.

Dinamo arrived without Yegor Sharangovich, whose loan spell is over. The visitor also faced an old friend. Geoff Platt, a man who enjoyed his earlier time in Minsk so much he acquired a Belarusian passport and played for the national team, joined Salavat Yulaev during the week after leaving Avtomobilist.

The host, which ended a four-game losing streak before the international break, began in confident fashion. The first period was one-sided, but Danny Taylor kept the Minsk goal intact. At the start of the second, Dinamo took an unexpected lead through Roman Gorbunov. However, within a couple of minutes Ufa had a 5-on-3 advantage and took full value from it. Sakari Manninen tied the scores before Platt marked his Ufa debut with a goal against his former club. Salavat’s Finnish contingent combined to make it 3-1 midway through the frame with Markus Granlund getting the goal.

A quick flurry of goals at the start of the third period left Dinamo buried. In less than two minutes, the home team scored three: Mikhail Naumenkov, Manninen’s second of the night and Artyom Pimenov did the damage. At 6-1, the outcome was no longer in doubt but the entertainment kept coming. The teams traded four more goals before the hooter as the men in green enjoyed a big victory.

Marchenko’s late show breaks Severstal

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2 Severstal Cherepovets 1 (0-0, 1-0, 1-1)

A last-minute goal from Alexei Marchenko, launching a thunderous point shot past Dmitry Shugayev, brought a second win of the season for Lokomotiv against Severstal. This one, though, was rather tighter than the teams’ previous meeting at the start of the month when the Railwaymen prevailed 5-1.

Severstal came out eager to avenge that loss and produced a strong first period. However, despite controlling the play, the visitor could not find a way to score and the balance of play changed sharply after the break. Now Lokomotiv was on top and that pressure eventually produced a power play goal from Vladimir Tkachyov in the 34th minute.

The home team continued to look the more impressive, but was undone by a defensive error as the third period ticked by. Adam Liska was the beneficiary, firing home an equalizer with eight minutes to go. However, it wasn’t enough to stop the Loko. Marchenko tested Shugayev with an effort from the blue line in the closing minutes and that turned out to be a dress rehearsal for his game-winner, scored 42 seconds before the siren.

Muscovites exploit Jokerit’s injury crisis

Dynamo Moscow 4 Jokerit Helsinki 0 (2-0, 2-0, 0-0)

Jokerit’s well-documented shortage of players was all-too apparent in Moscow and Dynamo took advantage to avenge its earlier 1-6 loss in Helsinki. Once again the Finns were without head coach Lauri Marjamaki and a raft of first-team regulars. The visitor named just five defensemen on the roster and was forced to play three-line hockey, just as in yesterday’s loss at Vityaz. Hardly ideal circumstances for back-to-back games.

Photo: 22.12.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Dynamo (Moscow) - Jokerit (Helsinki)

Before the game, Dynamo cautioned against expecting an easy win. Head coach Vladimir Krikunov pointed out that his team spent the week preparing for a familiar Jokerit roster and now faced an unexpected line-up. However, there were few problems on the ice. Forward Ivan Muranov potted two goals in the first period to give the home team the initiative. That’s the 21-year-old’s best performance in a single game in the KHL.

If the first period belonged to Muranov and Dynamo’s future, the second was dominated by the team’s current leaders. Vadim Shipachyov collected two assists as Dmitry Kagarlitsky and Dmitrij Jaskin extended the lead to 4-0.

The third period was chiefly notable for the efforts of Anders Lindback in the Jokerit net. He stopped 18 shots in the frame to keep the scoreline at 4-0. Dynamo improves to five wins from six, Jokerit suffers a fourth straight loss.

Ak Bars crashes Spartak’s retro party

Spartak Moscow 0 Ak Bars Kazan 3 (0-1, 0-1, 0-1)

December 22 is regarded as the birthday of Russia hockey and, traditionally, Spartak likes to celebrate with a retro-themed evening at home games around this time. This time, the 80s was the theme, with fans invited to dress up in the fashions of the time and enjoy a carefully-selected soundtrack from the perestroika years.

Photo: 22.12.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Spartak (Moscow) - Ak Bars (Kazan)

Back in that era, Kazan was not the hockey hotspot we know today and the city’s team was something of an also-ran in the Soviet championships. Now, though, Ak Bars is one of the top teams in the land — and Tuesday’s action produced an entirely contemporary result. The visitor went ahead early on when a power play saw Stephane Da Costa’s fine pass set up a Stanislav Galiyev one timer that left Julius Hudacek with no chance.

At the start of the second, recent signing Trevor Murphy doubled the Ak Bars lead. The Canadian defenseman, who arrived from Kunlun Red Star earlier this month, showed what encouraged Kazan to make him an offer when he fired home his first goal for the club. Then, late in the game, another power play saw Nigel Dawes make it 3-0 with Da Costa involved once again. Ilya Zubov had a late chance to deny Timur Bilyalov a shut-out but could not hit the target from a couple of meters out. The visiting goalie finished with 33 saves.

SKA holds its nerve despite CSKA’s fightback

SKA St. Petersburg 4 CSKA Moscow 3 SO (1-1, 0-0, 2-2, 0-0, 1-0)

The Army derby is one of the iconic fixtures of the season — and the team’s second meeting of this campaign produced a memorable encounter. SKA thought it had the win, but two goals in the last two minutes saw CSKA force overtime before the home team eventually prevailed in a shoot-out.

It did not take long for the Western Conference’s top teams to get going. SKA opened the scoring on 2:42 when Andrei Kuzmenko’s breakaway saw him feed Anton Burdasov for the first of the game. Burdasov missed Russia’s game on Sunday with a minor injury but recovered in time to make an immediate impact here.

However, CSKA responded almost immediately. Brendan Leipsic’s pass threaded the needle for Nikita Soshnikov to steer a one-timer past Magnus Hellberg. SKA went on to dominate the first period but could not add to the scoring. The second period, too, was goalless — and the hockey was far tighter with the teams sharing just 13 shots on target.

Therefore, when the home team moved ahead in the third, it looked like game over. Two of SKA’s youngsters opened a 3-1 lead, with Ivan Morozov getting the go-ahead goal and Kirill Marchenko stretching that advantage in the 56th minute. Game over? Not at all! CSKA killed a penalty then went for the throat. Konstantin Okulov charged down the left, went around the back and scored on the wraparound to reawaken the contest. Then, with 52 seconds left, Maxim Shalunov advanced down the left and squeezed in a shot from a tight angle that crept inside Hellberg’s near post and took the game to overtime.

The extras could not separate the teams, and SKA sent Alexander Samonov into the net for the shoot-out. He was beaten by Leipsic at the first attempt, but kept the rest at bay while Linden Vey, Tkachyov and Marchenko delivered the win for the home team.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Dynamo (Moscow) Dynamo (Moscow)
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Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)
Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)
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Sibir (Novosibirsk Region) Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)
SKA (Saint Petersburg) SKA (Saint Petersburg)
Spartak (Moscow) Spartak (Moscow)
Traktor (Chelyabinsk) Traktor (Chelyabinsk)
CSKA (Moscow) CSKA (Moscow)
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