Avtomobilist’s four-game losing streak came to an end with a victory in Kazakhstan that lifts Bill Peters’ team up to fifth in the Eastern Conference.
Despite the poor form on the way to Nur-Sultan, the visitor showed plenty of evidence that the crisis was coming to an end. An impressive first period display saw Nikita Tryamkin put the full force of his giant frame into a shot from the center of the zone to open the scoring in the seventh minute. Seven minutes later, Georgy Belousov was first to the rebound after Alexei Vasilevsky’s long shot. However, there were also signs of familiar weakness, most notably when Jakob Lilja got away from Tryamkin to pull a goal back for Barys.
Thus, when Phil Varone redirected a Darren Dietz shot into Jakub Kovar’s net early in the second period, it was easy to see why Avto might get nervous. The Motormen had to kill a penalty and, by the second intermission, Barys has built a small advantage in the stats.
However, neither team was able to take control in the third and it seemed that overtime was on its way when an unlikely hero settled the outcome. Dmitry Zhukenov, playing only his third game for Avtomobilist this season, was thrown onto the ice. And the gamble paid off: Zhukenov was first to the rebound from a Stanislav Bocharov shot and potted his second KHL goal. The first came back on Sep. 5, 2017, when he was playing for Avangard.
Table-topping Ak Bars had to recover from an early goal but recorded a third successive victory to move five points clear of CSKA as the race for the regular season title hots up.
Traktor, meanwhile, is still looking to formally confirm its playoff place — and had a proud record to maintain against Ak Bars this season, with two wins and a shoot-out loss in its three previous games. And the home team made a fast start when its Czech duo combined once more. Tomas Hyka’s assist extended his productive streak to six games, Lukas Sedlak’s finish gave his team the lead after 64 seconds.
After that, though, Ak Bars had the better of the game. Stephane Da Costa tied it up late in the first frame, then added another goal late in the middle session. Artyom Lukoyanov was the scorer, doing a great job on the rebound to make it 2-1. However, the visitor was handed a new problem right away, with Patrice Cormier picking up 5+20 for his assault on Vitaly Kravtsov.
Kazan killed the major penalty, allowing just a couple of menacing shots in that time. And, back at full strength, Ak Bars exacted punishment: Kirill Petrov made no mistake after a well-worked move in the Traktor zone. Traktor kept battling and pulled one goal back in the 55th minute through Nick Bailen. However, the visitor calmly played out the closing moments to secure the win.
Torpedo left it late but proved to be too strong for Red Star. Two power play goals midway through the third period decided the outcome of this game after both goalies produced big performances to keep it scoreless for 50 minutes.
Red Star might even feel it came closer to breaking the deadlock when Spencer Foo hit the bar in the second period. That chance came on the visitor’s PK and, in the end, it was a steady string of Kunlun penalties that cost the team. Torpedo’s sixth power play of the night paid dividends in the 51st minute when Chris Wideman fired home. A couple of minutes later, another home PP saw Chris Terry double the lead and any lingering doubts were extinguished when Jordan Szwarz added a third. Andrei Tikhomirov made 31 saves for his second shut-out of the season.
Defeat spoiled a memorable day for Red Star captain Luke Lockhart. The 28-year-old, recruited in 2017, made his 200th appearance for the club and became the first player to reach that milestone for the Chinese team.
Dynamo goalie Ivan Bocharov defied SKA to help his team defeat the Army Men for the third time this season. For forty minutes, the visitor dominated the game but could not find a goal. Then, at the start of the third, Dynamo got ahead and went on to close out the win.
The first period saw SKA take the early initiative. In the first 15 minutes, the visitor enjoyed two power plays and generally looked to be in control of the game. However, Ivan Bocharov kept the Army Men at bay and Dynamo steadily began to subdue the visiting offense as the game went on.
The second period was also goalless and once again that was largely down to Bocharov. He made 16 saves in the session — and 30 across the first two periods — as SKA continued to dominate. Almost nothing was seen from the home offense, with just three shots in the middle frame.
That pattern seemed set to continue in the third with SKA getting another power play when Oscar Lindberg was called for handling the puck. Again, though, Dynamo held on — and this time the home team responded with a goal. Back at full strength, the Blue-and-Whites launched a rare raid into SKA territory. Michal Cajkovsky, a hat-trick hero in his previous game, fired the puck from the left-hand boards to the far post and Dmitry Kagarlitsky arrived at the back door to put it in the net.
That changed the game. Dynamo, with something to hold onto, stifled SKA’s creativity. SKA, desperate to get back into the game, allowed more opportunities on the breakaway. The action was evenly poised until the last minute, when Magnus Hellberg was called to the visitor’s bench in time for one last surge. The plan backfired, though, when Dmitrij Jaskin scored into the empty net to settle the outcome in the home team’s favor. That’s goal number 32 for the Czech this season, improving on the club record he set last season.