League leader Metallurg suffered a second successive loss, going down at in-form Severstal after a disastrous first period. However, Magnitogorsk remains out in front in the Eastern Conference — and news that Traktor’s game in Ufa tomorrow is to be postponed ensures it will have a solid advantage in the standings as the league goes into the first international break.
Severstal, looking to extend its club record winning streak, could hardly have enjoyed a better start to proceedings. The home team had the best of the first period against the league leader and scored four unanswered goals. Clinical finishing made the difference: the teams were otherwise evenly matched, and Metallurg enjoyed two power plays without finding the way to goal.
At the other end, though, it was a different story as four of Severstal’s 12 attempts found the target. The initial damage was done by Vladislav Kodola in partnership with Daniil Vovchenko. The opening came when Vovchenko won possession in his zone and sent a long pass to release his team-mate in a one-on-one with Artyom Zagidulin in the visitor’s net. Five minutes later, we had a repeat. This time Vovchenko won possession on the blue line and Kodola took the puck to skate down the ice and score a second. Next, Vovchenko beat Zagidulin himself, rifling in a point shot after the Metallurg defense failed to clear its lines. That was the end of Zagidulin’s afternoon, with the 26-year-old goalie hauled off after 14 minutes of only his second start this season. Vovchenko, meanwhile, can celebrate 150 points in the KHL.
Whatever Ilya Vorobyov told his players in the locker room during the first intermission, it made an impression. Metallurg came out and scored twice in the 22nd minute. Artyom Minulin got the first, helped by an error of judgment from home goalie Konstantin Shostak, then Denis Zernov scored on the wraparound 21 seconds later. Shostak would surely want that one back as well and he duly followed Zagidulin to the sidelines as Dmitry Shugayev took his place.
After that goal frenzy, things calmed down a little. That suited the home team, which was happy to play to its two-goal lead and take some of the fire out of the game. Metallurg had to generate greater urgency, and that was most evident in the third period when the visitor tried to raise the tempo. Magnitka dominated the stats but couldn’t find a way past Shugayev. At the other end, Severstal had a power play effort whistled off following a review before Adam Liska’s empty net goal sealed the outcome and made it nine straight wins for Severstal.
Jordan Weal had not scored a goal in the KHL since Sep. 2 — but the Canadian forward’s return to form was worth the wait. He potted four against Avtomobilist to give Ak Bars the edge in a nine-goal thriller in Kazan, snaffling the decider in the last minute.
That goal hit the net with just 20 seconds left to play after Weal collected Steven Kampfer’s pass to the left-hand channel, moved into the Avto zone and cut inside to fire home from between the hash marks. It was the second time in four minutes that the Kampfer-Weal combination produced a goal as Ak Bars turned around a 3-4 deficit to win it in the closing stages.
That was characteristic of an enthralling encounter with the lead changing hands throughout the game. Ak Bars got the early edge after the home bench successfully challenged a goalie interference call. Weal had the puck in the net but was initially penalized after his battle with Vladimir Galkin. However, a video review established that the forward’s play was within the rules and the home team had the opening goal after four minutes. However, Avto tied the scores midway through the first period when Jesse Blacker’s shot from the top of the right-hand circle bounced off Steven Kampfer’s skate and beat Timur Bilyalov.
The teams traded two more goals early in the second period, this time on the power play. Weal restored the home lead, firing home an angled shot after a patient build-up involving Kristian Khenkel. However, the lead was short-lived as Brooks Macek finished off an excellent passing move that criss-crossed the home zone as the Ak Bars penalty kill came up short.
At the start of the third period, Avtomobilist needed just 10 seconds to convert a power play. Macek got his second of the game, and the visitor led for the first time. But not for long. Alexander Burmistrov pounced on a loose puck in the visitor’s zone and whipped a pass to Artyom Lukoyanov, who had a simple task to steer it home at the back door.
The visitor went ahead once again when Yakov Rylov scored against one of his many former clubs. However, Weal was on hand to complete his hat-trick when Kampfer fired the puck to the net and he steered it in at the far post. Then he went on to win the game in the final seconds.
Dinamo’s depleted squad gave a fine account of itself in Moscow. The Belarusians are without head coach Craig Woodcroft and a raft of senior players due to illness, but shrugged off a three-game losing streak to give the Red-and-Whites a real test. The teams finished regulation locked at 3-3 before the below-strength Belarusians grabbed a gutsy win.
The visitor once again had just four recognized defensemen on the team and its bench was three men light. Yet Minsk made a great start, with Vladimir Alistrov opening the scoring inside two minutes. Late in the frame, a power play goal from Jake Virtanen drew Spartak level and that set up something of a theme for the game.
In the second period, Dinamo went in front again almost immediately through Malte Stromwall. But Spartak replied within a minute as Nikolai Chebykin got his first goal since arriving from Dynamo Moscow. Nothing daunted, Minsk went back ahead late in the session when Dmitry Buinitsky struck on a delayed power play.
Spartak tied it up for a third time in the 46th minute when Virtanen got his second of the game. Fellow imports Jori Lehtera and Emil Pettersson put in the hard graft behind the net, getting the puck to the crease for Virtanen to strike. That was enough to take the game into overtime, where Mattias Tedenby’s one-timer off a Taylor Beck feed gave Dinamo the verdict after just 24 seconds’ play.
The optimism around Kunlun Red Star after the team recorded back-to-back wins was abruptly jolted at the very start of this game. Sibir, arriving on a run of five victories in six games, needed just 12 seconds to find a way past Jeremy Smith in the home net. Alexander Sharov grabbed that goal on the first shift, and the visitor’s top line was on the scoresheet again in the fourth minute when Valentin Pyanov’s shot was tucked away by Vyacheslav Litovchenko.
Red Star managed to stabilize after that early shock, but the Sibir defense did a good job of keeping the home team to the outside. Nikita Khlystov’s point shots were the Dragons’ principal weapon in the opening frame, but it was rare for Harri Sateri to be troubled as his team mates did a fine job of neutralizing the threat.
The middle frame saw few good chances at either end. Red Star had a half chance from a Spencer Foo shot on the power play, Sibir created a couple of dangerous rushes involving Pyanov and Nikita Korotkov. But the score was unchanged at the second intermission.
Sibir began the third period with another quick goal: Alexei Kruchinin scored on his former club inside 90 seconds. Midway through the session, the home team got one back when Jason Fram scored on the power play, but there was little danger of a fightback.