Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Dinamo Riga pulled off the result of the day, shocking table-topping Ak Bars with a thrilling overtime win in Kazan. Western Conference leader CSKA won the Moscow derby against Spartak, while SKA enjoyed a 3-1 win at Avtomobilist. The Finns of Ufa did their thing again, powering Salavat Yulaev to a 4-2 win over Severstal, and both Avangard and Metallurg picked up victories. There were overtime triumphs on the road for Amur and Dinamo Riga, while Torpedo was the day’s highest scorer with a 7-1 thrashing of Neftekhimik. Vityaz welcomed fans back to the arena with a 3-1 win over Sibir but Jokerit slumped to a 1-4 loss at home to Barys.

Groshev’s first goal helps SKA to victory

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 1 SKA St. Petersburg 3 (1-0, 0-3, 0-0)

A SKA star of the past opened the scoring in this game, but it was the SKA of the future that won it. After falling behind to a Pavel Datsyuk goal in the first period, the Army Men responded with three of their own in the second — and newcomer Maxim Groshev got his first for the club to seal the win.

Photo: 19.01.21. KHL Championship 2020/2021. Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

Avto came into the game in good form. After beating Avangard at the weekend, Bill Peters’ team moved to four successive wins and had hopes of moving into the top four in the East. And the home side was first to show, with Datsyuk scoring from close range in the eighth minute.

The Motormen then had the better of the game until the first intermission and may feel they should have built on that lead. Instead, though, SKA weathered the storm and responded with a powerful display in the second. The visitor’s power play made all the difference. Late in the first, Avto took its first penalty of the game, offering some necessary respite for SKA. Then came two goals from two power plays in the middle frame, with Anton Burdasov and Ivan Morozov both collecting a goal and an assist. Late in the session, Groshev broke away for a solo showdown with home goalie Vladislav Gross and the 19-year-old duly won his duel to record his first goal of the season. Groshev broke into the league at Neftekhimik last season and is a hotly-tipped junior prospect for club and country.

The middle frame saw SKA completely dominant — the shot count was 17-2 at the second break — but the third saw Avtomobilist fighting hard to save the game and extend its winning run. Despite some good chances, especially on the power play, there was no way back for the home team and after the game Peters admitted that his players were physically and mentally tired in this match-up.

Kovalchuk helps Hawks snap losing streak

Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 Avangard Omsk 3 (0-2, 1-1, 1-0)

Avangard held on to snap a three-game skid, with Ilya Kovalchuk collecting two assists along the way. For the first time since joining the Hawks, Kovi finished with a positive rating as Traktor’s recent revival hit a road bump.

Photo: 19.01.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Traktor (Chelyabinsk) - Avangard (Omsk)

Ilya Kovalchuk was involved in the first minute, with a fine pass to set up Denis Zernov for the opener. Midway through the opening session, Avangard increased its lead as Alexei Bereglazov scored. That’s a third goal in four games for the defenseman, who waited until Jan. 13 to score his first of the season. At the start of the second stanza, Kovi got another helper, this time playing his part in the link-up play that gave Nail Yakupov a third Avangard goal.

However, Traktor was by no means overwhelmed. In the first period it created chances without scoring, and the second began with Lawrence Pilut breaking clean through on Igor Bobkov’s net but failing to beat the visiting goalie. Yakupov’s goal was an instant response to that miss, but subsequently the home team began to get back into the game.

Late in the middle frame, Traktor finally got on the scoreboard. With four seconds on the clock, Vyacheslav Osnovin converted a power play to set up an intriguing third period. And the home team carried that momentum into the final session, with Nick Bailen cutting the deficit to a single goal in the 45th minute. After that, the game was surprisingly open, with both teams creating chances. However, as time went on, Avangard trusted its defensive qualities to see out the win and duly ended its losing sequence.

Loko loses again in the Urals

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 1 (1-0, 1-1, 2-0)

Magnitka’s third successive victory tightens Ilya Vorobyov’s grip on a top four place in the East, but Lokomotiv missed the chance to increase its gap over fourth-placed Dynamo Moscow in the West. The Railwaymen arrived in Magnitogorsk looking to bounce back from a shock 0-4 loss at Traktor, and goalie Eddie Pasquale was the most prominent sacrifice in Andrei Skabelka’s roster, replaced by Ilya Konovalov. Magnitka, meanwhile, was without forwards Andrei Chibisov and Taylor Beck.

Improving his team’s first period play has been one of Vorobyov’s key tasks and today that bore fruit. Metallurg was on top from the start and a Nikolai Prokhorkin goal in the 14th minute was fair reward for the host’s efforts, even if it took some big saves from Juho Olkinuora to repel the visitor’s power play. At the start of the second though, the Finn was beaten when Anton Lander grabbed a short-handed goal and brought the game right back to life. Grigory Dronov was among the players at fault as Magnitka’s PP broke down, but the young defenseman atoned for his error by restoring his team’s lead at the end of the second period.

Both of these teams have been strong in the third periods of their games this season, but today it was Metallurg that took control of the action. Maxim Karpov made it 3-1 midway through the session and late in the game Arkhip Nekolenko added a fourth to seal an impressive home win.

Granlund, Hartikainen lead the way for Ufa

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 4 Severstal Cherepovets 2 (0-1, 3-1, 1-0)

Ufa’s Finns continue to dominate. Today, leading scorer Teemu Hartikainen added three more points to his total, moving to the top of the KHL scoring charts with 54 (22+32) points after a goal and two assists. Partner in crime Markus Granlund scored two more goals, to go to 46 points for the season. It all added up to a difficult evening for Severstal, who could not hold onto an early lead.

The home team took the early initiative, but found it hard to break down the visiting D in the first period. Indeed, Severstal’s performance was so impressive that the visitor took the lead through Kirill Kapustin. Ufa responded early in the second, with Hartikainen setting up Alexander Alexeyev to make it 1-1. The young defenseman, on loan from the Capitals, was named KHL rookie of the week on Monday and celebrated with his third goal in three games. However, Severstal wasn’t done. Adam Liska restored the visitor’s lead in the 28th minute.

That got Granlund into the game. Salavat Yulaev got a power play almost immediately and the Finn tied the scores within a minute of Liska’s goal. Two minutes later, Hartikainen was on target to put the home team ahead for the first time. At the other end, Daniil Vovchenko was close to pulling off a lacrosse goal on Juha Metsola but fell just short.

Midway through the third, Hartikainen combined with Granlund to make it 4-2 and that lead proved enough to win the game. Severstal had one last chance ruled out by the video review and Ufa secured its second win of the season against the team from Cherepovets.

First-period blitz sinks Neftekhimik

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 7 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 1 (4-1, 2-0, 1-0)

Neftekhimik arrived in Nizhny Novgorod hoping to move clear of the basement spot in the East, but a disastrous spell in the first period saw the struggling team slump to a heavy defeat.

It all started well enough for the visitor, with Marat Khairullin opening the scoring in the fourth minute as Neftekhimik looked to build on back-to-back home wins. But Ziyat Paigin tied the game midway through the opening session, then three goals in less than two minutes put Torpedo in complete control. Damir Zhafyarov, Semyon Ruchkin and Artyom Mikheyev were the marksmen; starting goalie Evgeny Ivannikov was replaced by Fyodor Korotayev partway through the onslaught.

The incoming netminder did not have a much more enjoyable evening, though. Anton Shenfeld and Andy Miele extended Torpedo’s lead in the second period before Justin Kloos added a seventh early in the third. That was the end of the scoring as Torpedo celebrated its biggest win of the season.

Golubev gives Amur the overtime verdict

Kunlun Red Star 2 Amur Khabarovsk 3 OT (1-0, 0-1, 1-1, 0-1)

The Dragons led twice in this game but could not tame the Tigers in regulation and paid the price in overtime.

Although Amur had the better of the first period, Red Star opened the scoring when Ivan Nikolishin converted the home team’s first power play of the game. The reply came midway through the second session, when Michal Jordan put away Alexander Gorshkov’s feed.

The Dragons began the third period on the power play, and just as Alexander Polunin was getting ready to return to the ice, the home team regained the lead. Jason Fram was the scorer this time, smashing in a shot that bounced straight off the in-goal camera. That was Fram’s fourth goal of the season, but his first since Oct. 21.

However, Gorshkov was at the heart of most of the best play in the game and he engineered the 2-2 goal for Amur. His neat little pass behind his own back wrong-footed the home defense, then after the puck cannoned back off the boards, Gorshkov was on hand to fire a shot in off the back of Kunlun goalie Dmitry Shikin.

That took the game to overtime, where Denis Golubev gave Amur the points with a fine solo effort. It’s the fourth time this season that the Tigers have beaten the Dragons in this Far East rivalry.

Lipon’s goal stuns runaway leader

Ak Bars Kazan 4 Dinamo Riga 5 OT (2-2, 1-0, 1-2, 0-1)

Top faced bottom in Kazan — but the outcome was anything but predictable as Dinamo Riga downed Ak Bars in overtime after a pulsating battle in the Tatneft Arena.

The game got off to a rapid start, with the teams trading four goals inside five minutes. Janis Svanenbergs gave Dinamo an early lead, but his effort was quickly cancelled out by two goals from Ilya Safonov. The 19-year-old had never previously scored in the KHL, but had a dramatic impact on the start of this game. However, barely had play resumed after his second goal than a penalty on Dmitry Yudin helped Reece Scarlett to tie the game.

After that frantic start, things calmed down a little. Ak Bars controlled the rest of the first period and although Dinamo improved after the intermission it was little surprise when Artyom Lukoyanov made it 3-2 midway through the second.

Surprises came later. Riga drew level with a power play goal from Rihards Bukarts and stunned the 2,400 home fans in the arena when Gennady Stolyarov made it 4-3 with five minutes left. Scarlett had assists on both of the goals, adding to his earlier tally. Even before that, there was fair warning from the visitor, with Adam Reideborn pulling off two huge saves to preserve Ak Bars’ lead early in the third. And the drama kept coming. A minute after Stolyarov’s goal, Patrice Cormier bundled the puck into the net as Ivan Nalimov tumbled on the crease. The officials immediately ruled it out, claiming that Kirill Petrov impeded the goalie; Dmitry Kvartalnov challenged the call, but the video backed up the on-ice call.

However, it took just one more minute for the home team to draw level. Lukoyanov produced a recreation of his earlier goal to tie the scores and take the game to overtime. For the second time, Danis Zaripov provided the bullets for Lukoyanov to fire and we got another look at the ‘Three Musketeer’ celebration involving Mikhail Glukhov.

However, the celebration proved premature. Dinamo did it the hard way in overtime, killing a penalty and holding on as Ak Bars camped in the Riga zone. But, in the final seconds, a breakaway relieved the pressure and JC Lipon took his chance to win it with eight seconds left on the clock.

Fans return to celebrate victory

Vityaz Moscow Region 3 Sibir Novosibirsk 1 (2-0, 0-0, 1-1)

Fans returned to arenas in the Moscow Region today, and the 800 who were allowed into this game left happy after Vityaz picked up an important win in its push for a playoff place. The home side closes to within a point of eighth-placed Spartak, and still has a game in hand over the Red-and-Whites.

Two first-period goals set up the home success. Mattias Tedenby got the first, with Kaspars Daugavins claiming an assist as he closes in on a Latvian scoring record in the KHL. Then Tedenby turned provider for Justin Danforth to make it 2-0 late in the frame and put Vityaz in control.

The second period was goalless but Sibir, also in need of points to make the Eastern playoff, pulled one back at the start of the third when the Ushenin twins combined for Nikolai Demidov to score. Former Vityaz goalie Harri Sateri was called to the bench late on as the visitor tried to force a tying goal, but instead Jakub Jerabek scored into an empty net to seal the win.

Andronov fells Spartak with late winner

CSKA Moscow 2 Spartak Moscow 1 (1-0, 0-1, 1-0)

A last-minute short-handed goal gave CSKA a derby win over Moscow rival Spartak, reinforcing the Army Men’s lead in the Western Conference but plunging the team that shares the arena into an anxious battle for a playoff place.

Photo: 19.01.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. CSKA (Moscow) - Spartak (Moscow)

Sergei Andronov got the all-important goal in the 59th minute, 25 seconds after Maxim Shalunov was sent to the box. It was a solo effort from the CSKA captain, intercepting the puck after an error by the visiting offense, skating the length of the rink and beating Julius Hudacek to pot the game-winner. Spartak called a time-out and withdrew Hudacek in favor of an extra skater, but could not force a late equalizer and is now just one point clear of the pack as it looks to secure its playoff spot.

Earlier, CSKA went ahead in the first period thanks to Brendan Leipsic. The Canadian raced onto a Maxim Sorkin pass, darted away from Evgeny Kulik and found a backhand finish that left Hudacek grasping at thin air. That’s three goals in four games for the forward.

Spartak tied the scores early in the second period thanks to Ilya Talaluyev and from that point until the end of the game the visitor went on to create the majority of the chances. But Lars Johansson kept the Red-and-Whites at bay and Andronov delivered the sucker punch at the last.

Gorbunov gives Minsk a valuable win

HC Sochi 2 Dinamo Minsk 3 OT (1-1, 1-0, 0-1, 0-1)

Dinamo Minsk was the big winner among the teams chasing a place in the Western playoffs. With defeats for Spartak, Jokerit and Severstal, the Belarusians opened a four-point gap over ninth-placed Vityaz and earned some valuable breathing space in the race for the top eight.

But this was no easy win against a Sochi team with little left to play for this season. Twice the home team took the lead, only to succumb in overtime. Sergei Shmelyov opened the scoring on the power play midway through the first period. Despite Sochi’s seven-game skid, Shmelyov has hit the net in his last four outings. This time, though, his goal was cancelled out by Stepan Falkovsky before the intermission.

The pattern repeated itself. Sochi went back in front, this time on a short-handed goal from Dmitry Kolgotin, but Dinamo levelled early in the third thanks to Zack Mitchell’s second goal for the club. His first came in an overtime win against SKA and his second also contributed to an overtime victory. This time, he and Falkovsky turned provider to engineer a game-winner for Roman Gorbunov after four minutes of the extras.

Valk at the double for Barys

Jokerit Helsinki 1 Barys Nur-Sultan 4 (0-1, 0-0, 1-3)

Curtis Valk scored twice to give Barys an important win in its push for a playoff place in the East. Both these teams are struggling for consistency as they look to turn games in hand into the points that will secure a post-season campaign, but Valk’s third-period pair turned this encounter in the Kazakhs’ favor.

Jokerit’s evening got off to a bad start when Peter Regin went down with an injury early in the game. The Danish forward was unable to continue. Back on the ice, Barys went ahead in a first period of few chances when Filip Varone scored a short-handed effort late in the frame.

The second period was goalless, but the third began with action at both ends. Alex Grant tied the scores in the 43rd minute but almost immediately Barys stormed forward on an odd-man rush and Janis Kalnins pulled off a big save to keep the scores level. It might have been a turning point for the home team, but Valk had other ideas. He restored the Barys lead in the 52nd minute then killed off the contest with a power play goal after Sami Lepisto took a double minor for high sticks. And Lepisto was back in the box late on as Anton Sagadeyev completed the scoring for Barys.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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