Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Dynamo Moscow won 4-0 in Ufa to join Jokerit and CSKA on 50 points at the top of the Western Conference. Severstal might have joined that leading trio but slipped to a 1-2 loss at home to Amur. Eastern Conference high-flyer Traktor eased past Spartak, Barys battled back from 0-2 to win 4-2 at Neftekhimik, Avtomobilist won again under Nikolai Zavarukhin and Sibir kept up its good recent form with a win at Kunlun Red Star.

Dynamo returns to the top

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 0 Dynamo Moscow 4 (0-2, 0-2, 0-0)

An assured shut-out victory in Ufa puts Dynamo Moscow back on top of the Western Conference. The Blue-and-Whites moved level on points with Jokerit and CSKA, taking over top spot thanks to more victories in regulation.

It was only a couple of weeks on from Dynamo’s 3-1 win over the same opposition in the capital. Since then, Salavat Yulaev has had a tough time: that loss in Moscow was the start of a four-game skid that ended last time out with a 2-0 success at Admiral. Today’s game saw the return of three experienced players in Geoff Platt, Vladislav Kartayev and Andrei Zubarev, but Ufa was without 19-year-old defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin, who joins up with Russia’s juniors.

Even in the first period, Dynamo seemed to be in better shape — perhaps the long journey home from Vladivostok had taken its toll on the host. Certainly, late in the session the visitor moved into a two-goal lead thanks to efforts from defensemen Andrei Sergeyev and Anton Belov. Oscar Lindberg’s assist on the opening goal extends his productive streak to nine games. The Swede has 11 (1+10) points in that sequence and, after recovering from an early-season injury, has made a contribution in each game that he has played.

Ufa’s Finnish trio created a big chance at the start of the second period but Ivan Bocharov was up to the challenge. Had the home team taken advantage of that, things might have been different. Instead, Dynamo continued to press and Stanislav Galiyev added two further goals in the middle frame.

Photo: 04.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) - Dynamo (Moscow)

Zavarukhin wins again

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 2 Admiral Vladivostok 1 (0-1, 1-0, 1-0)

Avtomobilist continues to enjoy the bounce that so often comes with replacing the head coach, but a come-from-behind victory over basement team Admiral suggests that the Motormen’s problems are far from over despite Nikolai Zavarukhin’s promising start behind the bench.

Admiral is also hoping for a lift after appointing Leonids Tambijevs as its new head coach, but so far the Latvian is still without a win in the KHL. However, this performance was a step up from the 0-2 loss at home Salavat Yulaev last time out. The Sailors made a bright start, opening the scoring in the second minute through Josh Kestner, then getting a chance on the power play when Sergei Zborovsky started his return to action with a trip to the box. After that rocky start, though, Avtomobilist steadied its game without seriously threatening to tie the game before the intermission.

That opening stanza prompted what Zavarukhin described as a “man-to-man conversation” during the break. An early power play put the home team on the front foot and the pressure continued even after Miks Indrasis returned to the game. In the end, a tired Admiral defense iced the puck and Avto sent out its top line to exploit the opportunity. Stephane Da Costa’s diagonal pass picked out Sergei Shumakov to tie the scores. Brooks Macek, back in the team today, also had an assist.

The lead did not arrive until the third period, despite two efforts against the frame of Nikita Serebryakov’s goal. But when Shumakov carved open the visiting defense and set up Da Costa, the Frenchman made no mistake early in the final stanza. The home team had the better of the closing stages, but still endured an anxious moment when Kestner came close to tying the scores. However, Dmitry Shikin denied him and secured the points for Avtomobilist.

Traktor stops the rot

Traktor Chelyabinsk 4 Spartak Moscow 1 (1-0, 1-0, 2-1)

Both teams came into the game looking to recover from back-to-back losses, but it was Traktor that had the better of this one. Spartak called three former Chelyabinsk players into its roster as Alexander Avtsin, Oleg Yevenko and Nikolai Chebykin returned to the line-up, but that bit of insider knowledge was little help for the Red-and-Whites.

The visitor also had history on its side: Spartak had not lost at Traktor since 2018. However, Tomas Hyka gave the home team the lead in the first minute and Anvar Gatiyatulin’s men did not lose their way after that. Despite that fast start, though, Traktor was unable to build on its lead in a first period that it largely dominated.

The second goal arrived midway through the middle frame when Alexei Byvaltsev outwitted Alexei Krasikov in the Spartak net. Early in the third, the visitor had a great chance to reduce the deficit but Jake Virtanen failed to take advantage of a gilt-edged opportunity. Subsequently, Traktor did a thoroughly professional job of draining the pace from the visitor’s play before extending its lead late in the game. Vitaly Abramov and Teemu Pulkkinen took the scoreline to an unassailable 4-1 before Emil Pettersson potted a late consolation for Spartak.

Battling Barys grabs vital victory

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 2 Barys Nur-Sultan 4 (0-0, 2-1, 0-3)

Barys came from 0-2 down to record a big win in the context of the Eastern playoff race. The Kazakhs remain 10th in the conference but closed the gap on eighth-placed Neftekhimik to three points. Had the home team won here, it would have enjoyed a reassuring seven-point cushion over today’s opponent.

Neftekhimik also had a point to prove after losing at struggling Kunlun Red Star last time out. That was a third straight loss for Oleg Leontiev’s team and the visit of an opponent in similarly modest form must have looked like a great chance to get back on track. And, after a goalless opening frame, it seemed that Neftekhimik was rediscovering its best hockey. Goals from Sergei Kuptsov and Pavel Poryadin midway through the second period opened a 2-0 lead and, coupled with a strong performance throughout the opening session, pointed to a home win.

But Roman Starchenko’s power play goal just before the second intermission tipped the momentum back towards Barys. Kirill Savitsky tied it up with a short-handed effort in the 48th minute and the closing stages belonged to the visitor. In-form Curtis Valk got the game-winner, extending his productive streak to 10 games. Impressively, the dual-national forward keeps putting up the points even though his team has won just four of those 10. Team-mate Tomas Jurco is also putting a bit of a streak together and his empty net goal makes it five games among the points for the Slovak as he settles into his new club.

Tigers halt Severstal’s run

Severstal Cherepovets 1 Amur Khabarovsk 2 (0-0, 1-0, 0-2)

Severstal fluffed the chance to join a four-way tie at the top of the Western Conference when it slipped to a home loss against Amur. The visitor closed on the top eight in the East after coming from behind to win it in the third and snap the home team’s five-game winning streak.

Andrei Razin’s men were hoping to move to 50 points, level with Dynamo, Jokerit and CSKA at the top of the Conference. However, one of the quirks of that five-game streak is that the most comfortable victories came against CSKA and SKA, whereas more modest opposition such as the West’s weakest performers Vityaz and Dinamo Riga took the action into overtime before yielding.

There were echoes of that here. Against an Amur team that lies outside the playoff spots in the East, Severstal was unable to make a breakthrough until a power play goal from Yegor Morozov late in the second period. In the opening 40 minutes, the home team had the better of the play but the Tigers dug in, blocking shots to protect the net and doing everything they could to frustrate Severstal.

Then Severstal took a penalty at the start of the third period. Amur got a chance to spend some time on the attack and, once the teams were back to equal strength Alexander Sharov tied the scores. A few minutes later Alexander Gorshkov stuffed home the puck during a stooshie on the slot and a video review confirmed that the play was clean. Subsequently, Severstal had two chances on the power play but was unable to escape a first regulation-time loss since October.

Photo: 04.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Severstal (Cherepovets) - Amur (Khabarovsk)

Sibir overpowers Red Star

Kunlun Red Star 2 Sibir Novosibirsk 7 (0-2, 1-3, 0-2)

Sibir defeated Kunlun for the third time this season, recording a fourth straight victory and improving to 10 wins from its last 12 games. That upswing, which follows a slow start to the season for Andrei Martemyanov’s men, puts the Novosibirsk team level with Avangard on 42 points.

Red Star enjoyed a rare victory last time out, defeating Neftekhimik 2-1 as young goalie Paris O’Brien made a winning start to his KHL career. The Dragons also promoted some of their homegrown Chinese players to more prominent spots on the team and Ivano Zanatta continued with that approach here.

However, O’Brien found life tougher on his second appearance in this league. In-form Sibir created far more offense from the start and took full control of this game with two goals towards the end of the first period. Alexander Sharov opened the scoring with a well-placed backhand, then Nikita Shashkov doubled the lead barely one minute later.

Red Star’s power play has been problematic this season, but early in the second period the home team needed just 12 second to parlay a minor penalty for Denis Golubev into a goal for Tyler Wong. However, at the very moment Golubev would have exited the box if Sibir’s penalty kill had endured, he was on the ice make it 3-1. Then O’Brien suffered a moment to forget when a Trevor Murphy point shot cannoned off the boards and bounced into the net off the luckless goalie’s pads. Murphy, a former Dragon, added a goal to his earlier assist. As the second period drew to a close, Ethan Werek pulled one back for Kunlun but Michal Cajkovsky made it 5-2 seconds before the intermission.

The third period saw Sibir increase its lead. Vadim Kudako got his second of the season to make it 6-2 before Golubev’s second of the game confirmed the final scoreline.

Photo: 04.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Kunlun Red Star (Beijing) - Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)

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