Avangard snapped a two-game losing streak with a hard-fought victory over Salavat Yulaev. However, the victory came at a cost after young forward Arseny Gritsyuk suffered an injury late in the first period and did not feature in the rest of the game.
Salavat Yulaev got an early goal thanks to a superb pass from Alexander Kadeikin in the fifth minute. Released into the danger zone by Sergei Shmelyov, he turned and knocked an instinctive feed behind his back for Shmelyov to skate through and score. However, in a sometimes bruising encounter, Kadeikin also contributed to the Avangard equalizer: his hit on Alexei Emelin was ruled high and the subsequent power play saw Peter Cehlarik exchange passes with Corban Knight behind the net before rifling home from the right-hand circle.
This battle between two of the Eastern Conference powerhouses was an uncompromising affair with plenty of hard-hitting action. Unfortunately, that was bad news for Gritsyuk, who came into the game on a good run of form with five points in his last four games. The Avangard youngster faced a heavy but legal hit from Ufa’s veteran defenseman Grigory Panin and needed to be helped to the locker room. The 20-year-old did not return to the ice.
The teams were deadlocked at the first intermission and early in the second period, Salavat Yulaev thought it had the lead. Sergei Shmelyov got the puck behind the net and emerged to put a pass to the slot where Nikolai Kulemin shot home. However, the home bench challenged the call and after a video review the play was whistled off for an offside earlier in the action.
Midway through the second period, the Hawks got ahead thanks to Knight. Nikita Soshnikov won his battle with Philip Larsen behind the net and got the puck out to his team-mate on the right-hand dot. Knight produced a quick release on his one-timer and what his attempt lacked in power it gained in surprise as it slipped through Alexander Sharychenkov’s defenses.
Late in the middle frame, Salavat Yulaev had to kill a 3-on-5 penalty. The visitor managed it, but only after a good save from Sharychenkov to grab Oliwer Kaski’s dangerous shot. In the third, the visitor enjoyed the bulk of the possession but struggled to break down a disciplined home rearguard. Avangard is one of the strongest teams in the lead when defending a lead, and not even a couple of power play chances could help Ufa get back into the game.
SKA’s opening onslaught in Moscow was too much for Dynamo to handle as the Army Men recorded a fifth successive victory. However, when Joonas Kemppainen was ejected late in the game for hooking Mikhail Fisenko between the legs as they contested a face-off, the visitor faced an anxious finish.
It took just 17 seconds to open the scoring as Dynamo turned over the puck in its own zone almost immediately. Andrei Kuzmenko grabbed possession and advanced to beat Alexander Yeryomenko with the first shot of the game. Within three minutes, it was 2-0. A point shot caused the home defense disproportionate confusion and Artyom Shvets-Rogovoi was able to steal the loose puck, turn and shoot home.
The home team regrouped and managed to get a goal back midway through the opening stanza. Swedish forward Anton Wedin was a somewhat surprising signing for Alexei Kudashov’s team after he left Sibir with just two points from 14 games. Today, though, he showed a flash of what he can do with a solo rush that sliced through the visiting defense before setting up Dmitry Rashevsky to make it 2-1 in the 12th minute. The 21-year-old forward moves to 14 goals for the season.
Rashevsky’s goal gave Dynamo a way back into the game and the home team started to play better hockey in the second period. However, the Blue-and-White defense always looked vulnerable to individual error and a misplaced pass from Boikov enabled Kuzmenko to race away for his second goal of the night. All three of SKA’s markers were unassisted, highlighting the individual mistakes that let down the home D.
With a two-goal cushion in the third period, SKA could afford to close down the game. And, until Kemppainen inexplicably fouled Fisenko and drew a major penalty, there was little evidence that Dynamo could salvage anything. However, Andrei Sergeyev’s point shot pulled a goal back on the power play and put the outcome back in the balance.
Dynamo fought hard to create a tying goal but could not find a way through in the closing stages. Victory moves the Army Men five points clear of Jokerit at the top of the Western Conference while the Muscovites remain in third.