Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Thursday’s top game saw Igor Nikitin bring his Lokomotiv team to former club CSKA. There was no happy return for the head coach, though, who saw the Railwaymen sidelined in overtime. Metallurg extended its lead at the top of the table, winning 3-1 at Torpedo while Traktor stumbled at home to Amur. Nikolai Zavarukhin made a winning start to life behind the bench at Avtomobilist, Dynamo wasted little time in despatching Barys and Kunlun Red Star’s rookie goalie backstopped a Dragons’ win over Neftekhimik.

Dynamo’s fast start makes the difference

Barys Nur-Sultan 2 Dynamo Moscow 4 (0-3, 1-0, 1-1)

Dynamo took an immediate hold of this game, jumping to a 3-0 inside eight minutes to leave Barys with too much to do. Although the home side saw Curtis Valk extend his productive streak to nine games, Barys could do little to recover from that opening salvo.

The home team made some changes, recalling goalie Joni Ortio and defensemen Olle Alsing and Darren Dietz. All three were absent for the last four games, Dietz missed the last five. Dynamo’s defenseman Slava Voynov also returned to action after missing five games through injury and today marked his 300th KHL appearance. He celebrated that by scoring Dynamo’s second goal of the night, extending the lead after Anton Wedin grabbed the opener after 19 seconds. Not long after, Oscar Lindberg added a third and took his productive run to eight games.

Barys responded by replacing Ortio with Nikita Boyarkin, and that stemmed the flow of goals. However, it was not until the second period that the home team was able to wrest control of the play from its visitor. Where the Muscovites outshot the Kazakhs 15-4 in the opening frame, the picture changed in the second and Barys led the shot count 15-10. However, only one of those efforts found its target, when Cody Kunyk struck on the power play late in the session.

Any doubts about the outcome of the game were effectively ended at the start of the third period when Vadim Shipachyov added a goal to his pair of first-period helpers and gave Dynamo a 4-1 advantage. There was time for Valk to pull one back — good for his individual stats, but largely meaningless in the context of the game — in a final stanza that Barys was able to dominate without seriously threatening to turn the result around.

Photo: 02.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Barys (Nur-Sultan) - Dynamo (Moscow)

Winning debut for Zavarukhin

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 Spartak Moscow 1 (0-0, 2-1, 1-0)

Avtomobilist started the week by dismissing head coach Bill Peters. The Canadian was in his second season the KHL but the club’s management was far from happy with its expensively assembled team finding itself in a bitter battle to secure a playoff spot. Peters was replaced by Nikolai Zavarukhin, who was promoted from Avto’s coaching staff. The 46-year-old spent the bulk of his playing career as a center with Salavat Yulaev; previously he spent two seasons as head coach at Sibir before moving to Yekaterinburg in the summer.

Zavarukhin got off to a winning start in his new role. After a goalless first period, the home team was lifted when Dmitry Zhukenov opened the scoring at the start of the second following some good work on the slot. That set the tone for the rest of the period, and another goal soon followed when Georgy Belousov kept an attempted clearance inside the Spartak zone, got past his defenseman and wired a wrister to the top corner to make it 2-0. Indeed, the lead might have been greater: Stephane Da Costa spurned a great chance on the power play moments later.

The Frenchman’s miss inspired Spartak and the Red-and-Whites finished the period the stronger. Alexander Khokhlachyov’s shot bounced off the frame of the net and caused chaos on Dmitry Shikin’s net before Dmitry Kugryshev stuffed the puck home.

For long periods of the third, Avtomobilist was forced to defend its lead. However, despite Spartak’s efforts, a tying goal was not forthcoming and the game was settled when Ryan Spooner potted an empty net effort to make the final score 3-1.

Photo: 02.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg) - Spartak (Moscow)

Bartosak blanks Traktor

Traktor Chelyabinsk 0 Amur Khabarovsk 2 (0-2, 0-0, 0-0)

Traktor slipped to a second successive loss, going down to two power play goals from an Amur team that improved to three wins from four and is staying in touch with the playoff race in the east.

The home team welcomed back Czech forward Tomas Hyka after injury, while Amur forward Alexander Gorshkov was playing his 400th game in the KHL. Gorshkov celebrated that landmark with an assist on the opening goal, scored by Ivan Nikolishin on the power play after three minutes. Amur’s power play has not been the most effective of weapons this season, but tonight it was definitely on song and late in the frame Roman Lyubimov doubled the lead as Evgeny Kulik sat out a tripping minor.

The visitor was good value for its first period lead, outshooting Traktor 16-6 and enjoying the better of the play. Subsequently, though, the home team raised the tempo and began to dominate the action. Patrick Bartosak, back in action for Amur for the first time since Nov. 19, was much the busier goalie in the second and third period and would finish the game with 39 saves as he backstopped the Tigers to victory. However, the Czech had some help along the way: during the second period he needed to go to the bench to sort out a problem with his kit and Alexander Yevgrafov stepped in for one minute, making one save to contribute to the win.

Koshelev leads Magnitka to victory

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 1 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3 (0-0, 1-1, 0-2)

League-leading Metallurg got on top of Torpedo in the third period to move to 57 points. That’s four clear of Traktor in the Eastern Conference and seven ahead of Jokerit, which currently leads the way in the West. The game turned on two goals from Semyon Koshelev, whose four-game productive streak is now worth 5 (4+1) points. Strike partner Andrei Chibisov assisted on both those goals, taking his run to six games and 7 (4+3) points.

All that came after a competitive game. Metallurg made the brighter start, but as the first period went on Torpedo steadily came into the contest and might have grabbed the lead late in the session when Vasily Koshechkin fumbled an awkward Damir Zhafyarov shot onto the slot and Kenny Agostino was close to forcing home the rebound.

Agostino did find the net in the second period, firing home a Zhafyarov feed to make it 1-0 in the 38th minute. But that lead was short-lived: 90 seconds later a two-on-one break saw Maxim Karpov set up Nikita Korostelyov to tie the scores.

Both teams had chances at the start of the third, most notably when Torpedo got a power play. However, Metallurg survived that scare and took the lead shortly after returning to full strength. Koshelev got his first of the game, collecting a rebound off the back boards and steering it past Pyotr Kochetkov. Then Chibisov’s precision feed slipped between the sticks of the home defense to set up Koshelev for 3-1. Torpedo withdrew Kochetkov in search of a way back into the game, but chances for Agostino and Andy Miele were not enough to save the home team.

Photo: 02.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod) - Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

Rookie goalie wins for Red Star

Kunlun Red Star 2 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 1 (0-0, 2-1, 0-0)

The Dragons defeated Neftekhimik for the second time this season, helped by 37 saves from a rookie goalie. Ivan Zanatta brought in several new faces in a bid to rejuvenate a team with just one victory in its previous eight games.

Red Star handed a debut to goalie Paris O’Brien, a 21-year-old Chinese heritage player who has worked his way through the club’s system to reach the first team this season. He had an early introduction to life in the KHL, facing down a dangerous shot in the early exchanges, but adapted to the higher level well and played his part in ensuring a goalless first period.

The Dragons also deployed several of their young Chinese-born prospects, with 21-year-old Harbin native Jianing Guo getting a spot on the first line alongside his boyhood hero Brandon Yip. Wei Zhong and Xiang Xudong were further home-grown talents making their KHL debuts on the second and third lines respectively. Xudong marked the occasion with an assist as KRS opened the scoring, starting a move that finished with Ryan Sproul putting away a Spencer Foo feed.

Neftekhimik responded with a tying goal from Ronald Knot and another effort disallowed after a review confirmed that the puck did not cross the line. Late in the second period, though, Red Star regained the lead with a power play effort. Tyler Wong was credited with the goal after his shot pinballed off the skates of two defensemen to bamboozle Alexander Sudnitsin in the visitor’s net.

In the closing stages, Neftekhimik produced a flurry of chances around O’Brien’s net but could not save the game as Red Star held on for a win that moves them two points clear of Admiral at the foot of the Eastern Conference.

Sibir edges clash of two form teams

HC Sochi 1 Sibir Novosibirsk 2 (0-0, 0-2, 1-0)

This was a battle between two of the KHL’s most improved teams. Both clubs started the season slowly, but in recent weeks they have picked up form and hauled themselves into the thick of the playoff races in their respective conferences.

As such, there was no shortage of confidence in the opening exchanges, and Sochi produced a dominant first period display that arguably deserved an opening goal. However, Anton Krasotkin was equal to the 12 shots that came his way as the Siberians continued their distinguished defensive efforts this season.

And, after absorbing the pressure at one end, Sibir began to pose a greater threat at the other. Late in the second period, that led to the opening goals of the game. First came Michal Cajkovsky, firing home off an Anton Shenfeld assist. That was Shenfeld’s third helper since arriving from Torpedo last month and it wasn’t long before he added to that with his first goal for his new club.

Sochi needed a fast start in the third period, and got exactly that when Nikita Feoktistov pulled a goal back within two minutes of the restart. However, it was unable to build on that boost and Sibir held on for a narrow victory that consolidates its grip on sixth place in the East.

No happy return for Nikitin

CSKA Moscow 1 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 0 OT (0-0, 0-0, 0-0, 1-0)

Loko head coach Igor Nikitin was denied a successful return to CSKA when his new charges suffered an overtime loss after 60 scoreless minutes in the Russian capital. The Army Men, meanwhile, move level on points with Jokerit at the top of the Western Conference, although there are still seven points to make up on overall KHL leader Metallurg.

Although the final score was as tight as possible, the visitor was heavily reliant on goalie Eddie Pasquale and his defense to get even a point from a game that the Army Men dominated for long period. Loko was limited to just 10 shots on goal in regulation — and none in overtime — while Pasquale made 27 saves and saw another 16 efforts blocked by his team-mates before he finally succumbed. Apart from an early chance for Artur Kayumov, there was little offensive threat from the visitor.

During overtime, CSKA twice opted to withdraw goalie Ivan Fedotov and play four-on-three with an empty net. It’s a high risk strategy in a phase of play when possession can change hands in an instant, but it paid off for the Army Men tonight. The man advantage helped to set up Nikita Nesterov for a point shot that Pasquale could only push into the path of the unmarked Mikhail Grigorenko for the winning goal.

Photo: 02.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. CSKA (Moscow) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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