Andy Potts Andy Potts
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There are new leaders in the KHL scoring race, with Teemu Hartikainen and Vadim Shipachyov moving ahead of Stephane da Costa. Both picked up two points today, helping Salavat Yulaev beat Sibir and Dynamo Moscow defeat SKA. Elsewhere, Jokerit blew a 3-0 lead before beating Severstal in a shoot-out, Avangard lost in overtime against Spartak after leading 2-0 and Dinamo Minsk defeated Dinamo Riga in the extras following a 2-2 tie. Kunlun Red Star beat Traktor with a last-minute goal from Anton Lazarev and Barys enjoyed a 5-2 win at home to Amur.

Hartikainen climbs the scoring charts

Sibir Novosibirsk 1 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3 (1-1, 0-1, 0-1)

Salavat Yulaev’s Finnish troika was on top form once again to give the Ufa team victory at Sibir. Markus Granlund had two goals and an assist, while Teemu Hartikainen and Sakari Manninen weighed in with two helpers apiece. Hartikainen’s contribution moves him to 42 points for the season, leapfrogging Stephane Da Costa in the KHL scoring race and moving to the top, one point clear of Dynamo’s Vadim Shipachyov.

All three of Salavat Yulaev’s Finns arrived on the back of a three-game scoring run, and that line combined to set up a seventh-minute opener for Pavel Koledov. Sibir responded almost immediately with a Finn of its own. Juuso Puustinen applied the finish after a fantastic run from Konstantin Alexeyev sliced through the Ufa defense.

In the middle frame, Sibir spurned chances on the power play before Ufa regained the initiative. Midway through the frame, Mikhail Naumenkov — recently arrived from CSKA in the trade that sent Nikita Soshnikov to Moscow — had the puck in the home net only for a bench challenge to establish that Granlund was offside early in the play. However, Granlund himself made amends when he made it 2-1 in the 35th minute.

Sibir had its chances in the third period as well, with the Ushenin brothers going close during a power play. Once again, though, Salavat Yulaev withstood the pressure and responded with a goal at the other end when all three Finns combined and Granlund sealed the win with his second of the night.

Lilja at the double as Barys wins again

Barys Nur-Sultan 5 Amur Khabarovsk 2 (1-0, 1-1, 3-1)

Barys recorded a fifth successive victory and moved five points clear of eighth-placed Sibir in the battle for playoff places in the East. Two goals from Jakob Lilja paced the home win as the Kazakhs made a welcome return to the Barys Arena following four games on the road.

It wasn’t long before Lilja was making his presence felt: the Swede opened the scoring after five minutes, and Barys went on to enjoy the better of the opening frame. However, the home team could not extend its lead and was caught at the start of the second period when Michal Jordan tied the scores. It wasn’t until the dying moments of the middle session that Barys regained its lead; Matt Frattin potted his fifth goal in seven games (he has nine points altogether in that time) to restore the advantage before the intermission.

A short-handed goal for Curtis Valk extended the home lead at the start of the third and further tallies from Lilja and Alikhan Asetov put the game out of Amur’s reach. The visitor managed a late consolation goal from Dominik Masin but could not escape a third successive loss.

Sexton hat-trick sinks former club

Avtomobilist Yekaterinuburg 3 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 0 (0-0, 1-0, 2-0)

The Motormen continued their recovery from a recent dismal run while Neftekhimik remains rooted to the foot of the Eastern Conference. The visitor fell to an eighth successive loss this season and suffered its 10th consecutive defeat at the hands of Avtomobilist.

Bill Peters stuck with the same roster that defeated Salavat Yulaev last time out and reaped the rewards. The home team had the better of a goalless first period and dealt with the disruption caused by a brief failure of the arena lighting after the intermission. Despite the enterprising play on display from both teams, though, it wasn’t until late in the middle frame that the deadlock was broken at last with Avto’s American forward Dan Sexton putting the host in front.

It proved to be very much Sexton’s day. In the third period he added two more goals, one a deflected shot off an opponent’s skate and the other an empty net effort with 36 seconds left. That completed his first hat-trick in the KHL — ironically scored on the team that first brought him to Russia in 2014.

Shipachyov goal ends SKA’s winning streak

Dynamo Moscow 2 SKA St. Petersburg 1 OT (0-0, 1-1, 0-0, 1-0)

Vadim Shipachyov joined Teemu Hartikainen on top of the KHL scoring chart with a game-winning goal plus an assist in a hard-fought victory over SKA. The home victory ended a nine-game losing streak for Dynamo against the Army Men and both goals were scored by former SKA players.

Photo: 26.12.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Dynamo (Moscow) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

However, it was some time before we saw any scoring in this game. The first period was hard fought but demanded relatively little of Alexander Yeryomenko and Alexander Samonov in their respective nets. Even with two power plays in the opening stanza, Dynamo was limited to just four shots on goal, while SKA managed six at the other end.

The second period saw Dynamo pushed to the brink on its first PK of the game: Yeryomenko was left without a stick for almost a minute, then took a twig from one of his skaters who, in turn, was left unarmed on the ice. Yet the defense held out and SKA was frustrated. That may have contributed to more penalties on the Army Men and, at the fifth time of asking, the home PP found a way through. Dmitry Kagarlitsky was the scorer off a Shipachyov feed, breaking the deadlock in the 38th minute. However, the lead would not last to the intermission as Anton Belov tied it up 13 seconds before the hooter.

The third period could not separate the teams and the game went to overtime. Dynamo got the winner in the extras after Juuso Hietanen won possession in center ice and picked out the unmaked Shipachyov. The home captain duly converted the chance to end SKA’s four-game winning streak.

Serikov follows in Kuteikin’s footsteps

Avangard Omsk 2 Spartak Moscow 3 OT (2-0, 0-2, 0-0, 0-1)

Avangard blew a 2-0 lead at home to Spartak and ended up losing in overtime for the second time this season against the Red-and-Whites.

Photo: 26.12.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Avangard (Omsk) - Spartak (Moscow)

The home team came into the game without two key defensemen — Ville Pokka and Damir Sharipzyanov both missed out. That meant Alexei Solovyov found himself thrust into the limelight. Usually a bit-part player at best, the 26-year-old was in the thick of the first-period action, collecting two assists as the Hawks assumed control. In the seventh minute he played his part in Nail Yakupov’s opener, then late in the frame Alexander Khokhlachyov redirected Solovyov’s shot from the boards into the net.

Avangard enjoyed a 2-0 lead in its first game with Spartak, only to end up on the losing side. And the same was to happen here. The second period saw the visitor strike back, with Artyom Serikov taking everyone by surprise when he unleashed a shot from center ice that beat Igor Bobkov. Veteran Spartak defenseman Andrei Kuteikin is noted for that kind of goal; while he recovers from injury, 19-year-old Serikov is auditioning to take over the role. More importantly, his goal steered the initiative towards his team and after a strong second-period showing Robin Hanzl tied the scores just before the intermission.

The third frame could not separate the teams, although Avangard had its opportunities on the power play. Instead, the play went to overtime and Lukas Radil got the winner for Spartak.

Menell’s double defeats Riga

Dinamo Minsk 3 Dinamo Riga 2 OT (2-0, 0-1, 0-1, 1-0)

These two namesakes traditionally meet at this time of year, and in 2020 Minsk was having the happier Christmas. The Bison are charging towards a playoff place, while Riga is struggling at the foot of the Western Conference. Today’s game went to form, but only after a brave Latvian fightback forced overtime.

Overtime seemed a remote prospect early in the game, though. Minsk opened the scoring in the second minute on a power play goal from Brennan Menell, and Alexander Kogalev extended the lead late in the first period.

However, amid Riga’s problems the form of recent signing Gleb Zyryanov has been a genuine plus. The long-limbed forward arrived from Kunlun Red Star in early November and today he potted his sixth goal in 14 games for Dinamo. True, it’s not the most trailblazing of scoring records. But on a team that won just three of those games, it’s a more than respectable return and it represents the most productive season in the 28-year-old’s KHL career to date. Today’s goal saw him go around the net before deceiving Dominik Furch with a gentle push over the goal line.

Early in the third we saw a tying goal when Denis Parshin took advantage of a defensive error. After that, though, Minsk regained control of the game. However, the home team could not find a winning goal in regulation and it wasn’t until overtime than Menell’s second of the night decided the outcome.

Jokerit withstands Severstal’s fightback

Jokerit Helsinki 4 Severstal Cherepovets 3 SO (3-2, 0-0, 0-1, 0-0, 1-0)

Jokerit snapped its four-game losing streak — but the Finns’ recovery from its injury crisis was far from straightforward. Severstal battled back after a slow start and forced the game into overtime but Jokerit, despite only naming 18 players on today’s roster, dug in to get the verdict.

Jokerit made a flying start to the game and jumped into a 3-0 lead inside nine minutes. Henrik Haapala got two of the goals, starting by lifting a David Sklenicka point shot beyond the reach of Konstantin Shostak in the fourth minute. Next came a power play goal from Veli-Matti Savinainen, battling away on the slot with John Norman after Haapala’s feed caused chaos in front of the visiting goalie. A change of netminder did not, immediately, change the story of the game; Haapala quickly scored on the incoming Dmitry Shugayev to make it 3-0.

After that, though, Severstal recovered. Goals from Igor Geraskin and Alexander Petunin made it 3-2 at the end of the first period and with Jokerit still short of personnel there was every reason for anxiety in the home camp. It’s true that the Finns welcomed back a host of big-name players who missed the short-benched trips to Vityaz and Dynamo Moscow, but head coach Lauri Marjamaki — back behind the bench today — was still a couple of players light and named 20 skaters for the game.

The second period was goalless, but Severstal was starting to enjoy more of the play. And at the beginning of the third, the visitor tied the game thanks to Daniil Vovchenko. It would have been easy for home heads to drop — form and fatigue would have sunk many teams at this point. But Jokerit held on and steered the game through overtime to a shoot-out. After five attempts each, the scores were locked at 2-2, but Anders Lindback shut the door on the visiting forwards and Jesse Joensuu secured the win.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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