Red Star snapped its four-game losing streak to post a first victory of 2021. As a result, the Dragons avenged a 6-1 home defeat against Sibir a week earlier and moved ahead of Neftekhimik at the foot of the Eastern Conference.
The visitor produced a strong display in the first period and was rewarded with two goals. Vyacheslav Leshchenko opened the scoring midway through the frame when he fired home following Alexei Toropchenko’s no-look pass. Ryan Sproul, who celebrated his birthday yesterday, kept the party going when he scored a power play goal on 17 minutes. The last play of the session saw Luke Lockhart put the puck in the net for a third time, but the video review ruled that the goal came after the hooter.
In the middle stanza, Ethan Werek extended the visitor’s lead late on as Sibir struggled to find a way back into the game. Home frustrations were clear, and Andrei Chibisov got into trouble after a fight with Toropchenko. Sibir did pull one back, with Oleg Li scoring a power play goal midway through the third, but Red Star would not be denied.
Teemu Hartikainen moved ahead of Esa Pirnes, getting his 51st point of the season to set a new record tally for a Finnish player in a single KHL season. Harty got a helper on a Markus Granlund goal as Salavat Yulaev roared back from 1-3 down to win 6-3.
The rush of goals late in the game seemed a remote prospect early on, though. In the first period, Ufa was limited to just six shots on goal, but a solitary effort from Philip Larsen was enough to give the visitor the lead at the intermission.
In the second period, Barys was also limited to six shots on target, but enjoyed an even better strike-rate and scored with three of them. The tallies came in a rush, with little more than six minutes separating Kirill Panyukov’s equalizer and the 3-1 goal from Nikita Mikhailis. Admittedly, that effort was the second after the host got a 5-on-3 power play, with Jakob Lilja also finding the net. However, Salavat Yulaev hit back and tied the scores before the intermission with Sakari Manninen and Geoff Platt restoring parity.
At the start of the third, Alexander Alexeyev gave the visitor a 4-3 lead and this time Tommi Lamsa’s team was not going to let Barys back into the game. Hartikainen’s historic assist helped Granlund make it 5-3 (Granlund finished the game with three points) and Pyotr Khokhryakov’s empty-net effort completed the win.
Pirnes, who set his record back in the first KHL season, paid tribute to Hartikainen and his fellow Finns after the Ufa forward moved ahead of the 50-point haul he delivered for Atlant.
“Over the last five years in Finland we have been talking about who might break my record. It was only a matter of time, Mikko Lehtonen was close last year but missed a few games at the end of the season. I’m happy that the record has finally gone,” he said.
“I think that Markus Granlund and Sakari Manninen could also break it. I’m looking forward to seeing them all set new targets around the 60-point mark in the regular season.
“In April I said it would be hard for Hartikainen to break the record without Linus Omark, but back then I didn’t know that Granlund would replace him. Linus is one of Europe’s most creative players, but he likes to play with the puck himself a lot. Now the chemistry on that line is even better, they think as one and play in the same style.”
Traktor snapped a five-game losing streak to deny Vityaz the chance to close on the top eight in the West. Anvar Gatiyatullin’s team remains seventh in the East, but in a congested section is now just four points — two wins — behind fourth-placed Metallurg.
Neither team is in great form in 2021 and while both tried to play on the front foot from the start, neither was able to create much danger in front of goal in the first period. After the intermission, Vityaz thought it had a chance on the power play but Traktor’s PK has been productive this season and Vyacheslav Osnovin gave his team the lead with its 12th short-handed goal of the campaign.
Midway through the third period, Traktor extended its lead with a power play goal when Denis Bodrov scored his first for the club. That proved to be decisive: Kaspars Daugavins got Vityaz back into the game but the host held on to take a much-needed two points.
CSKA’s three-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt when the Army Men were blanked in Yaroslavl. Home goalie Eddie Pasquale stopped 20 pucks but this was a true victory for teamwork. Loko’s players repeatedly got in the way of the puck and worked tirelessly to keep CSKA’s dangerous forwards on the outside. The result was a tactical battle settled by clinical finishing from the home team.
The first period produced little in the way of attacking hockey — Lokomotiv spent just 1:16 on the attack in the whole session — but the home team did get the opening goal. Yegor Averin burst through the center, evaded his opponent and wired a wrist shot to the top corner past Lars Johansson.
Early in the second, the Army Men tried to seize the initiative but instead fell further behind. Alexei Marchenko, once a CSKA player, doubled Loko’s lead with a point shot of a Yegor Korshkov feed. And Korshkov himself made it 3-0 in the 28th minute, racing onto Pavel Kraskovsky’s long pass, dancing past Dmitry Samorukov and beating the goalie through his five-hole.
The third period saw Lokomotiv continue with the tactics that had locked down the opposition for so long. Igor Nikitin could not find an answer to a resilient home defense and his team’s last hope evaporated in the final minute when, right after removing replacement goalie Alexander Sharychenkov from the net, Nikita Soshnikov took a penalty to ease the pressure on Pasquale’s net. CSKA failed to score for the first time since Dec. 25, 2019.