Saint Petersburg (17:00)
Nizhny Novgorod (18:00)
Saint Petersburg (19:30)
Avangard defeated Salavat Yulaev for the second time in a week — but for the defending champion, those victories punctuate a run of four losses in six games. That downturn prompted changes in personnel, most notably the departure of Francis Pare by mutual consent after he was placed on waivers. Bob Hartley was also without Nail Yakupov for today’s game, but the return of captain Alexei Emelin was a boost.
Salavat Yulaev had its fitness problems as well. Six players were unavailable due to illness, forcing Tomi Lamsa to call upon his reserves to complete Friday’s line-up.
The home team looked livelier in the early exchanges, right up until the first penalty of the game midway through the first period. That saw Grigory Panin sit, and Oliwer Kaski put Avangard in front. Kaski struck again midway through the middle stanza, this time on a 5-on-3 power play. By then, though, Salavat Yulaev had turned the game around with goals from Alexander Kadeikin (again on the PP) and young Danil Alalykin, who potted his second of the season.
The middle frame saw the best of the home offense, with Avangard’s Simon Hrubec having to deal with 17 shots on his net. However, a penalty on Vladislav Kartayev at the start of the third enabled Vladimir Bryukvin to restore Avangard’s lead. This time the visitor was able to hold on, sealing the win thank to an empty net goal from Pavel Dedunov.
Vitaly Kravtsov is back at Traktor — and wasted no time in letting everybody know about it. The 21-year-old is back at his first pro club on loan after opting not to play with the New York Rangers’ farm club this season. Kravtsov insists that his long-term ambition is establish himself in the NHL with the Rangers but, once again, is back in Russia to build towards that goal.
And as first days go, this was a good one. Kravtsov marked his return with two goals, include the overtime decider, to help Traktor post back-to-back wins. He also overshadowed the unfortunate Nikita Mikhailis, whose hat-trick for Barys proved to be in a losing cause.
Mikhailis had a hand in all four Barys goals, starting with an assist as Matt Frattin’s power play effort opened the scoring in the 15th minute. Traktor struck back with two goals in the final minute of play, Kravtsov potting one of them just 13 seconds after Albert Yarullin tied the scores. Kravtsov was on hand at the back door to convert Vladimir Tkachyov’s feed and send the visitor into the intermission with the lead.
After that, things looked like turning into the Mikhailis show. The Kazakh forward potted a natural hat-trick, turning 1-2 into 4-2 by the 49th minute. But Kravtsov was not to be upstaged. He had a helper on the power play as Sergei Kalinin reduced the arrears, and then saw Sergei Telegin’s deflected effort take the game into overtime. And that was when his big moment arrived. Two minutes into the extras he took the puck from Lawrence Pilut on the blue line and looked for a scoring chance. Slipping the puck through his own legs, Kravtsov outwitted Olle Alsing in the home defense and advanced to place a backhand shot on the top shelf and win the game.
Vityaz and CSKA staged a barn-burner of a game in Podolsk. The lead changed hands repeatedly in this clash before Konstantin Okulov gave the visitor the edge in a shoot-out.
It was something of a slow burner. The first period produced just one goal, scored by Slava Leshchenko to give the home team the lead midway through the session. But it all changed in the second as the teams shared six goals. It started when CSKA came roaring back. Mikhail Grigorenko scored twice in a minute to put the visitor ahead — a perfect riposte after just one goal and three points in his previous 10 games. Then Grigorenko had an assist as Pavel Karnaukhov extended the lead.
Vityaz wasn’t done, though. Niko Ojamaki pulled a goal back, with the Finn finding the net for the fourth game in a row and improving to seven goals in nine appearances. That was on 35:00 and there was still time for Grigorenko to complete his hat-trick and Ivan Zinchenko to reduce the arrears once again before the second intermission.
CSKA might have felt it was poised to go on and win the game in the third, but Vityaz had other ideas. Early in the session, a home power play ended when Miks Indrasis batted down a Daniel Audette effort and beat Adam Reideborn. There was a video review to confirm that Indrasis’ stick was not high, and the goal was given. Then Mikhail Smolin put the home team in front midway through the session, giving Vityaz’ fans hopes of an unexpected victory. However, when Artyom Borodkin took a minor penalty, CSKA was able to save the game thanks to Artyom Sergeyev’s power play goal.
That took the game into the extras and after a goalless period of overtime saw Vityaz kill a penalty that carried over from the final seconds of regulation, we faced a shoot-out. After a feast of goals during the game, only Okulov managed to convert his post-game attempt and that gave the Army Men the verdict.
Neftekhimik’s improved recent form continued with a comfortable home win over Admiral. But while the host remains well-placed in the top eight, the Sailors suffered a sixth straight loss and remain rooted to the foot of the KHL standings.
The visitor brought a hard-hitting approach to the first period, laying 17 checks on Neftekhimik. However, that could not prevent the home team from taking a sixth-minute lead thanks to Marat Khairullin’s power play goal. The Neftekhimik captain extends his productive streak to six games, and has 9 (4+5) points in that run. Late in the first period, Vojtech Mozik tied the game for the visitor, but that was as close as Admiral got to taking anything from this encounter.
Neftekhimik began the second session brightly, opening a two-goal lead thanks to markers from Yegor Popov and Evgeny Mityakin. Dan Sexton had an assist on Popov’s goal, taking him to 181 points for Neftekhimik and setting a club record for the KHL era. Mityakin, meanwhile, found the net for the third game running and this one proved to be the game winner. True, Evgeny Grachyov pulled one back almost immediately for the visitor, but Maxim Berezin struck either side of the second intermission to take the game away from Admiral.
Midway through the third frame, Neftekhimik had the puck in the net for a sixth time. This one, though, was challenged by the Admiral bench and ultimately cancelled out for offside.
It feels like a long time since Dynamo was dominating the start of the season. In September, with Vadim Shipachyov romping away at the top of the scoring race, the Blue-and-Whites put together a long winning run. But since defeating Barys on Oct. 1, it’s all gone wrong. In 14 subsequent games, Alexei Kudashov’s team has managed just five victories; the most recent of those, a potentially transformational 7-3 success on the road in Minsk, came against an opponent decimated by illness.
Amur, traditionally an outsider in the East, is looking to stay in the race for a top-eight finish. The Tigers’ recent form is patchy, but today the visitor got everything right. Solid defense brought 25 blocked shots and 35 saves from Evgeny Alikin to keep the home team at bay. At the other end, while chances were scarce, there was a decisive goal from Alexander Gorshkov in the 28th minute. Ivan Nikolishin’s defense-splitting pass created the opportunity.
In the third period, as Dynamo looked to get back into contention, Alikin found himself hard at work. In truth, though, he was rarely pushed into exceptional play to preserve the lead: Dynamo had plenty of possession but struggled to really unlock the visiting defense. At the other end, Ivan Bocharov’s greatest danger was loss of concentration, although he faced a couple of testing breakaways before the final hooter.