Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Pavel Datsyuk and Jakub Kovar were Avtomobilist’s stars in a shoot-out win at CSKA, while fellow Army club SKA went down in overtime at Dinamo Minsk after two goals from Shane Prince turned the game around late on. Jokerit had plenty to celebrate in Sochi, powering to a 5-0 victory with Niklas Jensen leading the way.

Elsewhere, Ilya Kovalchuk scored as Avangard edged an 11-goal thriller in Ufa, Neftekhimik made it back-to-back shut-outs with a shoot-out success at home to Torpedo, Lokomotiv beat Sibir 3-2 and Severstal won 4-2 at Kunlun Red Star.

Sekac gives Avangard an overtime win

Salavat Yulaev 5 Avangard Omsk 6 OT (2-2, 0-1, 3-2, 0-1)

Ilya Kovalchuk celebrated victory for the first time as an Avangard player after the Hawks edged an 11-goal thriller in Ufa. It was the second time in two days that fans in Bashkortostan saw overtime, but the contrast between Sunday’s stalemate and today’s goal rush could hardly have been greater.

Photo: 05.01.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) - Avangard (Omsk)

Part of the reason for that might have been the return of Markus Granlund to the home offense after he missed the game against Avtomobilist. Avangard also switched it up, with leading scorer Reid Boucher missing as Kovalchuk lined up with Denis Zernov and Alexei Potapov amid a widespread reshuffle.

The action got off to a lively start and Ufa went ahead in the fifth minute. Alexander Kadeikin’s interception in center ice was the catalyst and he set up Vladimir Zharkov for the opener. However, when Kadeikin went to the box, Alexander Khokhlachyov took advantage to tie the scores. A second Avangard power play brought a second goal and this time it was Kovalchuk on the scoresheet. He converted Kirill Semyonov’s feed from behind the net to put the Hawks ahead. That lead proved short-lived, with Dmitry Kugryshev responding with a power play goal of his own to tie the scores at the first intermission.

After all that excitement, the second period produced just one more goal — and that in the final seconds. Salavat Yulaev arguably looked the better team for much of the session, but late in the frame Avangard managed to keep the puck in the attacking zone and Semyonov capitalized to restore the lead.

The third period was another goal fest. Three minutes in, Mikhail Naumenkov tied it up once more, then we saw a Finnish shoot-out. Avangard D-man Oliwer Kaski scored twice, but Granlund cancelled out both of them — the latter with barely a minute left on the clock. That took us to overtime, where Kovalchuk helped to set up Jiri Sekac for the winner as Kadeikin sat out another penalty.

Shugayev backstops Severstal success

Kunlun Red Star 2 Severstal Cherepovets 4 (0-1, 1-2, 1-1)

Severstal goalie Dmitry Shugayev returned to Mytishchi, where he played junior hockey until 2018, and produced a man-sized performance to defeat Kunlun Red Star. The 24-year-old had 42 saves as his team shrugged off a 2-6 loss at Sochi to begin 2021 with a win.

Most of Shugayev’s action came in the third period when the Dragons belatedly began to roar. He made 24 saves in that time, beaten only by Cory Kane’s close-range finish after Ryan Sproul’s shot rebounded into the danger zone. Not long before that, Kane was in the sin bin after crashing into Shugayev, but the goalie remained unflappable. His efforts were rewarded when Alexander Petunin converted a penalty shot with less than three minutes to play, giving the Steelmen an unassailable 4-2 lead.

Earlier, Shawn Lalonde gave Severstal the lead with the only goal of the first period. Daniil Vovchenko doubled that advantage with a power play effort and Joonas Nattinen made it 3-0 midway through the middle frame. But Red Star rallied, pulling a goal back through captain Luke Lockhart late in the second and piling on the pressure in the third. However, Shugayev was determined to deliver the W for the visitor.

Jensen leads Jokerit romp

HC Sochi 0 Jokerit Helsinki 5 (0-0, 0-3, 0-2)

Jokerit needed half an hour to break down Sochi’s defense, but eventually cruised to a convincing victory beside the Black Sea. The Finns were led by two goals from Niklas Jensen and a shut-out from Janis Kalnins and opened up a seven-point advantage over ninth-placed Vityaz in the race for a playoff place.

Although the first period was goalless, it was already clear that this was an uneven contest. Alexei Krasikov made 12 saves in the Sochi net, while Kalnins was called into action just four times at the other end. The second period followed a similar pattern but this time with goals. Jensen opened the scoring in the 33rd minute, potting the rebound after David Sklenicka’s shot came back off the boards. With the floodgates opened at last, the visitor added two more before the intermission. Henrik Haapala made it 2-0, leaving #41 trailing in his wake as he blazed along the goal line before beating Krasikov with a backhand finish. Then Jensen doubled his tally when the Sochi defense went walkabout to leave him all along at the back door to convert a Viktor Loov feed.

Jokerit began the third period by converting a power play. Brian O’Neill surged down the right and his diagonal pass was redirected by Peter Regin and Jesse Joensuu to leave Krasikov bamboozled. Sochi began to ask some questions of Kalnins at last, but the visiting goalie had all the answers. The Finns wrapped up a big win in the last minute when Antti Pihlstrom got clear of the defense and sent the puck to the top shelf to make it 5-0.

Goalies on top in Nizhnekamsk

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 1 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 0 SO (0-0, 0-0, 0-0, 0-0, 1-0)

This game was something of an endurance test, with the two teams going 65 minutes without a goal. However, Neftekhimik’s shoot-out success makes it three wins on the spin and lifts the Tatar team to within one point of Kunlun Red Star at the foot of the Eastern Conference.

After blanking Sibir in his previous game, home goalie Evgeny Ivannikov followed up with another shut-out here. Previously, his last clean sheet was way back in 2014. He made 22 stops in regulation here, and one more in overtime before steering a successful path through the shoot-out. At the other end, Pyotr Kochetkov was busier, facing 38 shots in 65 minutes. Eight of those came in overtime as Torpedo struggled following a penalty on leading defenseman Chris Wideman.

However, neither side could break the deadlock until the third round of the shoot-out, when Chris Terry gave Torpedo the edge. Brandon McMillan cancelled out that advantage and returned to pot the decider as the game went into sudden death.

Sibir’s fightback falls short

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3 Sibir Novosibirsk 2 (2-0, 1-2, 0-0)

Lokomotiv followed up its 7-1 win over Vityaz a hard-fought win over Sibir. After the home team jumped to an early lead, the playoff chasing visitor battled back to make it a tense finish but Andrei Skabelka’s men held on to record a second successive victory.

Loko made a perfect start. Pavel Kraskovsky opened the scoring after three minutes and Artur Kayumov doubled the advantage with a power play goal on 6:09. That was already the second PP of the game for the Railwaymen, with Sibir struggling to stay in the game early on.

However, Lokomotiv was unable to build on that early pressure. Despite continuing to dominate the play, it could not add to its lead in the first period and Alexei Yakovlev pulled a goal back for Sibir on the counter early in the second. Mikhail Belyayev made it 3-1 with a well-placed wrister as the halfway mark approached, but Juuso Puustinen quickly cut the lead once again when he reacted fastest to a rebound on the home crease and bagged a power play goal.

Sibir had time to tie the game, but in the third period Loko did a professional job of shutting the game down. Neither team was able to create many chances — of Sibir’s 25 attempts only six were on target as the host kept its visitor to the outside for long periods and closed out a 3-2 verdict.

Datsyuk defeats CSKA

CSKA Moscow 1 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 2 SO (1-1, 0-0, 0-0, 0-0, 0-1)

Once, briefly, Pavel Datsyuk was a favorite of CSKA fans. During the NHL lock-out he was the Muscovites’ star signing and he lived up to that billing with 36 points in 31 games before returning to Detroit.

Photo: 05.01.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. CSKA (Moscow) - Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg)

Today, though, he proved to be the Army Men’s nemesis. The Magic Man opened the scoring in the fourth minute with another contender for his bulging highlight reel, taking full advantage of the space allowed him by John Gilmour to circle into a shooting lane and launch a backhander over Alexander Sharychenkov’s shoulder.

After that, Jakub Kovar stepped up for the visitor as CSKA looked to apply the pressure. He was beaten in the 14th minute when Max Sorkin redirected a point shot from Klas Dahlbeck, but otherwise kept the Army Men at bay throughout the game to finish with 30 saves. Sorkin, meanwhile, kept up his good recent form — that was the 20-year-old’s fourth goal in six games.

Kovar continued to impress when the game went to a shoot-out, winning every one of his duels. And who popped up at the other end to win the game? One Pavel Datsyuk, the only man to find the net and deliver the win to the visitor.

Prince’s double downs SKA

Dinamo Minsk 4 SKA St. Petersburg 3 OT (1-1, 0-1, 2-1, 1-0)

Two power play goals from Shane Prince turned this game around and handed Dinamo Minsk an overtime victory. The Belarusians had to endure plenty of pressure and trailed three times before coming up with the goods in the closing stages.

SKA began at a rapid tempo and dominated the early exchanges. Reward came in the ninth minute when Linden Vey got beyond the goal line, fired the puck back to the crease and enjoyed a kind bounce off the skate of home goalie Alexei Kolosov. Dinamo responded soon afterwards, with Zack Mitchell getting his first for the club following his move from Riga. The scoring play was orchestrated by defenseman Brennan Menell.

SKA regained the lead midway through the second period thanks to a piece of subterfuge. Ivan Morozov played the puck out of the corner towards Vasily Tokranov, whose presence in an advanced position drew the home defense out of position. Rather than shoot, though, Tokranov deftly touched the puck on to Anton Burdasov, who had time between the hash marks to pick his spot and beat Kolosov. The home goalie, though, continued to impress in the middle frame, making 12 saves to add to his 19 first-period stops. The 19-year-old was clearly not about to let his early misfortune distract him.

Dinamo’s reward for absorbing all that pressure arrived early in the third. Prince looked to score on the wraparound, and the rebound broke for Pavel Varfolomeyev to claim his first goal for the club. However, it took less than a minute for SKA to regain the lead, with Burdasov getting his second of the night after Andrei Kuzmenko spun out from behind the net to find his team-mate on the slot.

That wasn’t enough to win it. Emil Galimov took a double minor for high sticks — although the replay suggested this might have been a harsh call — and Dinamo converted the power play chance thanks to Prince. That took the action to overtime, where Minsk began with another power play and Prince took advantage to grab the game winner when he rifled home Menell’s feed.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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