Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Ilya Kovalchuk scored on his Avangard debut but still finished on the losing side against Kunlun Red Star. Jokerit scored two power play goals to get the better of SKA in Helsinki, and Torpedo edged Lokomotiv in an 11-goal thriller. Several teams halted losing streaks: Neftekhimik won its first game in 10, Dinamo Riga snapped a six-game skid and Sochi ended a four-game run. Dynamo Moscow had a convincing victory at Vityaz and Barys got an overtime verdict at home to Metallurg.

Finnish power play makes the difference

Jokerit Helsinki 2 SKA St. Petersburg 1 (1-0, 1-0, 0-1)

SKA’s previous visit to Helsinki this season ended in a convincing victory, helped by a virus-weakened opposition roster. However, when the teams met in Petersburg more recently, the Finns got the nod in a shoot-out. Round three brought the first home victory of this mini-series and lifted Jokerit up five places in the standings to fifth in the Western Conference.

The host made the livelier start and SKA was forced on the back foot early in the game thanks to a couple of penalties for shooting the puck out of the rink. Lauri Marjamaki’s team converted the second of those chances, with Veli-Matti Savinainen getting in front of the net to apply the final touch to a shot from the in-form Henrik Haapala. SKA responded by getting its own offense more involved in the game, but was unable to beat Anders Lindback in the first period.

Early in the second, Markko Anttila had a great chance to increase the lead when he was clean through on Alexander Samonov’s net, but the forward could not beat the goalie. Instead, it took another SKA power play to bring a second goal. This time, Jordan Schroeder was the scorer late in the middle frame.

SKA got a goal back midway through the third thanks to Evgeny Timkin and the visitor tested the Jokerit PK soon afterwards. Today, though, the Finns’ special teams were on top form and the host withstood that examination and closed out the win.

Riga has something to celebrate at last

Spartak Moscow 2 Dinamo Riga 5 (1-1, 1-2, 0-2)

Dinamo ended a difficult year on a high note, snapping a six-game losing streak with a comfortable victory at Spartak. Leading scorer Miks Indrasis had a hat-trick of assists to steer the Latvians to a win that offers some grounds for optimism for the league’s basement team.

Spartak, meanwhile, suffered a second heavy loss after Monday’s derby embarrassment at home to Dynamo. Despite changing the roster, the Red-and-Whites were up against it early on when Artyom Serikov took a double minor and Indrasis picked out Lauris Darzins for the opening goal.

The host seemed to recover from that setback. Lukas Radil tied it up off a pass from his compatriot Robin Hanzl then, early in the second, Mikhail Yunkov gave the Muscovites the lead. But that was as good as it got for Spartak as Dinamo responded with four unanswered goals.

First, Indrasis spotted Daniels Berzins leaving the penalty box and set him free to beat Nikita Bespalov and tie the scores. Just before the intermission, Ivan Nalimov’s save launched a counter attack that saw Martins Dzierkals set up Rihards Bukarts for the go-ahead goal. Bukarts scored twice in Dinamo’s previous game at Torpedo and returned the favor for Dzierkals to make it 4-2 with a power play goal early in the third. And there was still time for one more Indrasis contribution: a helper as Denis Parshin completed the scoring midway through the third.

Kovi’s instant impact can’t save Avangard

Avangard Omsk 3 Kunlun Red Star 4 SO (1-1, 2-1, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1)

Ilya Kovalchuk scored on his Avangard debut but was then denied in the shoot-out as Kunlun Red Star tore up the script for Kovi’s KHL return.

Photo: 30.12.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Avangard (Omsk) - Kunlun Red Star (Beijing)

The Olympic and World Champion wore the ‘A’ for his new team and looked to have set the Hawks on the road to victory when he tied this game at 2-2 late in the second period. With 35 minutes played, he stole the puck from Kunlun defenseman Ruslan Pedan and skittered a low shot through traffic to tie the scores. Forty seconds later, Avangard had the lead. Alexei Emelin’s point shot was saved and Pavel Dedunov scored off the rebound. A video review confirmed that Dedunov’s initial redirect was within the rules.

It was a bitter blow for the Dragons, who led twice in the game. Ethan Werek opened the scoring early on and Anton Lazarev made it 2-1 at the start of the second after a shorthanded tally from Reid Boucher sent the teams into the first intermission at 1-1. But the visitor did not buckle. A hard-working third period performance saw home goalie Simon Hrubec saved by the crossbar before, with 35 seconds left, Red Star tied it up thanks to Ryan Sproul’s shot from the top of the circle.

Kunlun had yet to win a game in overtime this season but Lazarev thought he had broken that hoodoo when he deflected Vojtech Mozik’s feed into the net. The video review suggested otherwise, though, spotting a deliberate movement of knee to puck and ruling out the goal. That led to a shoot-out. Kunlun’s Tyler Wong and Hunter Shinkaruk scored, leaving Kovalchuk with the vital attempt to keep the game alive. He was denied by Jeremy Smith, though, and ended on the losing side on his KHL return.

Frattin’s double gives Barys the win

Barys Nur-Sultan 3 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2 OT (1-0, 1-1, 0-1, 1-0)

Barys bounced back from Monday’s loss at home to Sibir, ending 2020 on a high. For Metallurg, meanwhile, not even a first goal from Nikolai Goldobin could lift the team’s form. Ilya Vorobyov’s men have now lost three from four and even though they go into the New Year in third place in the East, the gap to eighth-placed Barys is just six points in a congested table.

Matt Frattin is in a rich vein of form right now and he opened the scoring in the 13th minute to extend his hot streak to five games. Indeed, the Canadian has collected at least one point in nine of his last 10 appearances as the Kazakh team’s form has steadily improved in recent weeks. Defenseman Dillon Heatherington extended the lead early in the second period.

Metallurg hit back, though. Goldobin, who made his debut in Monday’s loss at Salavat Yulaev, got his first goal since moving from CSKA. It came late in the second period and set the game up for an intriguing finale. And we certainly got a grandstand finish, with a last-minute Yegor Yakovlev goal taking us into overtime.

However, Barys would not be denied. Frattin got his second of the game — assisted once again by Phil Varone — to take the win.

Torpedo wins 11-goal thriller

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 6 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 5 (3-2, 2-2, 1-1)

Torpedo and Loko finished the year with a barn-burner of a game in Nizhny Novogorod. Both starting goalies were sitting on the bench inside 16 minutes as the teams went on to trade 11 goals before the host took the verdict.

It all started when Yegor Korshkov converted the first power play of the night in the sixth minute, but Lokomotiv’s lead didn’t last long. Jordan Szwarz tied it up a couple of minutes later and the tone for a roller-coaster game was set. The teams traded two goals in 20 seconds midway through the first period — Mikhail Belyayev for Lokomotiv, Semyon Ruchkin replying for the host. Then Sergei Goncharuk rounded off a breathless opening stanza by shooting Torpedo 3-2 up.

Lokomotiv responded at the start of the second and led 4-3 by the midway stage. But a flurry of penalties saw Torpedo score two power play goals in the space of a minute, with Andy Miele and Ivan Chekhovich restoring the home lead.

There was little let-up in the third. The Railwaymen tied it up once more through Atte Ohtamaa, but Anton Shenfeld made it 6-5 for Torpedo in the 47th minute. Perhaps surprisingly, given all that had gone before, that was the last goal of the night and for 13 minutes we saw no further scoring. Impressively, Torpedo scored its six goals from just 25 efforts on target, a 24% success rate.

Khairullin’s late goal ends long losing streak

Dinamo Minsk 4 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 5 (1-0, 1-4, 2-1)

Neftekhimik stopped the rot in its final game of 2020, snapping a nine-game losing streak with a hard-fought victory in Minsk. Following a 2-7 loss at Severstal in the previous game, this was a much-needed boost for the Tatar team.

Photo: 30.12.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Dinamo (Minsk) – Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)

However, Neftekhimik did it the hard way, blowing a 4-1 lead before snatching a dramatic late winner. When Vladislav Yeryomenko tied it up at 4-4 with 90 seconds on the clock, it looked as though Dinamo had, at the very least, forced the game into overtime. But the excitement was not over — on 59:22, Marat Khairullin restored the visitor’s lead when he took advantage of a defensive error to score the fifth.

Earlier, it seemed that playoff chasing Dinamo would end 2020 on a high note. Shane Prince’s power play goal separated the teams at the first intermission and Maxim Sushko restored that lead midway through the second period. But Neftekhimik responded with three goals in 10 minutes to take a commanding lead into the second break.

Dinamo came out in the third determined to recover the deficit and thanks to two goals from Yeryomenko, the home team succeeded in that task. But Khairullin had the final word to give Neftekhimik a long-awaited victory.

Dynamo wins big again

Vityaz Moscow Region 1 Dynamo Moscow 5 (0-0, 0-3, 1-1)

A second big win in three days saw Dynamo Moscow finish off the year in style, while Vityaz lost ground in the race for a playoff place.

Photo: 30.12.20. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Vityaz (Moscow Region) - Dynamo (Moscow)

Dynamo came into this game full of confidence after its 6-0 win at Spartak last time out. However, it could not break down Vityaz in a goalless first period. The game was shaped in the second by the Blue-and-White power play. First, Michal Cajkovsky broke the deadlock early in the session then, midway through, Vadim Shipachyov added a goal to his earlier assist as Vityaz once again paid the penalty. Vladislav Yefremov added a third late in the session.

The visitor extended its lead with two more goals early in the third. Daniil Tarasov and Juuso Hietanen did the damage, the latter on the power play. There was a consolation for Vityaz when Kaspars Daugavins scored on one of his former clubs with five minutes left, but the outcome was no longer in doubt.

Sochi ends losing run

HC Sochi 6 Severstal Cherepovets 2 (3-0, 2-2, 1-0)

Sochi withstood a Severstal fightback to record a first win in four games, with Sergei Shmelyov potting two goals along the way.

It all started well for the home team with three goals in the first period. Ansel Galimov opened the scoring midway through the stanza, then Nikita Feoktistov and Igor Rudenkov extended the advantage with two goals in barely a minute as Severstal struggled to make an impact.

That all changed at the start of the second period with the visitor fighting back. A 5-on-3 power play gave Yegor Morozov the chance to reduce the arrears and midway through the session Jacob Berglund made it a one-goal game as he scored his second goal in two games. However, as Severstal scented a way back into the game, Shmelyov blocked the path. Sochi’s leading scorer found the net twice in the closing moments of the frame to take the lead to a comfortable 5-2. Galimov added his second of the game in the third period to complete the scoring.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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