Andy Potts Andy Potts
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A shoot-out win at SKA puts Dynamo Moscow on top of the Western Conference — but the Blue-and-Whites are level on points with the Army Men and Jokerit. CSKA is one point behind after an overtime loss at Lokomotiv. In the East, Salavat Yulaev won an incident packed Green Derby at Ak Bars, and Metallurg got the better of Avangard. HC Sochi came back from 0-4 to beat Severstal; Kunlun grabbed a last-second goal to tie with Sibir, but lost out in overtime.

Derby joy for Admiral

Admiral Vladivostok 2 Amur Khabarovsk 1 (1-1, 1-0, 0-0)

Admiral claimed victory in the Far East derby and moved off the foot of the KHL standings for a few hours. Subsequent events in Novosibirsk sent the Sailors back to the bottom despite defeating Amur for the second time this season.

Today’s game was a repeat of the scoreline from October, when Admiral won 2-1 in Khabarovsk. The home team took the lead midway through the first period thanks to Artyom Gareyev but was denied a second when the visitor’s bench successfully challenged for offside. A few minutes later, Ivan Nikolishin tied the game on a power play.

At the start of the middle frame, Vladislav Kaletnik restored the home lead, assisted by Vojtech Mozik and Libor Sulak, the two goalscorers from the earlier game this season. That proved decisive, with the home team comfortably outshooting its visitor and Evgeny Alikin’s 38 saves insufficient to keep Amur in the game.

Photo: 12.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Admiral (Vladivostok) - Amur (Khabarovsk)

Sibir takes win despite last-second drama

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

Sibir recovered from giving up a last-second equalizer to defeat Kunlun Red Star in overtime. Nikita Setdikov’s second of the game secured his team’s fourth win of the season against the Dragons.

The visitor handed a debut to 30-year-old netminder Pengfei Han. The Harbin native has been involved with the KRS set-up since 2017 but had not played a competitive game in almost two years. He was busy from the start as Sibir looked to take the game to Kunlun, but performed creditably in the first period with 14 saves. Only a Setdikov effort midway through the frame got past him.

In the second stanza it was more of the same, with Sibir on top and Pengfei stopping plenty of pucks. The home team extended its lead through Nikita Korotkov and seemed well placed to take the points.

However, this was Sibir’s second game in 24 hours and yesterday, Andrei Martemyanov’s team faded badly against Traktor in the third. Red Star took inspiration from that, with Parker Foo pulling a goal back midway through a more evenly contested passage of play. Then came the late drama: when Sibir won a defensive zone face-off with eight seconds left, that should have been the end of the story. Instead, though, Denis Golubev opted to shoot at the empty net and succeeded only in icing the puck. Kunlun won the next draw, and the puck dropped for Tyler Wong to grab a dramatic goal on 59:59.

That took us to overtime, where Setdikov’s individual effort finally ended Red Star’s resistance. Pengfei made 37 saves on his debut to help keep Kunlun off the foot of the table.

Neftekhimik wins at last

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

These two teams came into the game in contrasting form. A four-game winning streak lifted Barys into the playoff places, while six straight losses saw Neftekhimik drop out of the top eight in the East. Today, though, the formbook was turned upside down.

This game was also a duel between two Finnish goalies, Joni Ortio for Barys and Frans Tuohimaa of Neftekhimik. And it was Tuohimaa, whose early months in the KHL have proved challenging, who came out on top. Neither team could find a goal in the first period, and Neftekhimik continued to frustrate Barys after the intermission. Late in the second stanza, though, Mikhail Sidorov opened the scoring with his second of the season. For the defenseman, it’s the first time in his career he’s found the net twice in one campaign. In the 48th minute, Neftekhimik doubled its lead thanks to Alexander Sevostyanov, who potted his first KHL goal in his 14th appearance in the league. Sevostyanov recently joined the team from Avtomobilist.

Tuohimaa’s resistance came to an end midway through the final frame when Jacob Berglund marked his return to action with a goal for Barys. However, hopes of a home fightback were ended when Denis Vikharev scored into the empty net with eight seconds left to play.

Metallurg bounces back

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3 Avangard Omsk 2 (1-0, 2-0, 0-2)

Despite suffering a 1-5 loss against SKA on Friday, Metallurg made no changes for the visit of defending champion Avangard. And Ilya Vorobyov’s team bounced back, with two goals from Semyon Koshelev pacing a narrow victory. Avangard, arriving on the back of a win at Severstal, battled hard to try to save the game in the third period. Kirill Semyonov got his first point since returning to the club, but it was not enough.

Outplayed on Friday, Magnitka looked for a first start to put things right here. The home team dominated the first period but had to be content with a single goal in the opening frame. Koshelev was the scorer in the 14th minute, reacting smartly to the rebound from Josh Currie’s angled shot.

The middle frame brought two more goals for the host. Andrei Chibisov doubled the lead at the start of the second period with a shot from a tight angle then another breakdown in the visiting defense saw him lead a rush that ended with Koshelev’s second of the game.

Up to that point, little had been seen of the Avangard offense, but gradually the Hawks began to get into the game. The visitor began to take control in the third period and Semyonov’s assist helped Alexei Emelin pull a goal back on 47 minutes. With five minutes left, former Metallurg man Nikolai Prokhorkin gave his former colleagues a fright, making it a one-goal game. However, Magnitka withstood the pressure and held on for the win.

Photo: 12.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) - Avangard (Omsk)

Mishchenko inspires huge fightback

HC Sochi 5 Severstal Cherepovets 4 (0-2, 2-2, 3-0)

The fightback of the day came beside the Black Sea, where Sochi came from 0-4 to win a thriller against Severstal. Ivan Mishchenko was the catalyst for the home win, potting a hat-trick to turn the game around in style.

Initially, though, this was all about Severstal. Yegor Morozov scored twice in the first period, one of them on the power play, to give the visitor a handy lead. In the second, David Dumbadze notched two of his own — although the second was a freakish affair credited to the forward after Vasily Glotov’s misplaced pass finished in his own unguarded net as Sochi tried to take advantage of a delayed penalty. That rare event meant that the Leopards had a power play as soon as play resumed, and Mishchenko duly got his first of the evening. Late in the second period, Amir Garayev made it 2-4, but there was still a long way to go for the home team.

Severstal, however, failed to come to terms with Mishchenko’s strength on the power play. Late in the third period, the visitor twice took penalties and Mishchenko twice completed the punishment. Suddenly, with five minutes to play, it was 4-4. Sochi then killed a penalty before the game entered the closing minutes — and Glotov atoned for his earlier blunder by grabbing the gamewinner on 58:36. The home celebrations were wild, and ended up in a 20-minute team penalty for unsporting conduct after the hooter, but few in the Sochi camp were concerned about that after a rousing recovery.

Fast start sets Spartak on the road to victory

Spartak Moscow 5 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 2 (4-2, 1-0, 0-0)

Spartak posted a third straight victory after a breathless start to Sunday’s game at home to Avtomobilist. The teams traded five goals in barely eight minutes here before the two defenses got a grip on proceedings.

That explosive opening started with a tripping call on Sergei Zborovsky, while led to a power play goal for Jori Lehtera. Avto tied it up through Ryan Spooner but just 10 seconds later Ivan Drozdov restored the home lead. Vyacheslav Solodukhin made it 3-1 on 7:58, chasing Dmitry Shikin from the net in favor of Vladimir Galkin. The Motormen responded within 20 seconds as Patrice Cormier cut the deficit.

After that blistering start, neither offense could sustain the pace. True, Tim Heed made it 4-2 in the 15th minute, but subsequently goals were hard to come by. In the second period, Avtomobilist began to get on top but home goalie Andrei Skovronsky — whose KHL debut brought a shut-out on Friday — was alert to the danger and protected his team’s lead. The final word came in the final second, when Drozdov put his second of the game into an empty net to seal Spartak’s success.

Photo: 12.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Spartak (Moscow) - Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg)

Rashevsky leads Dynamo to victory

SKA St. Petersburg 1 Dynamo Moscow 2 SO (0-0, 1-0, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1)

This was Dmitry Rashevsky’s day. The young Dynamo forward tied the game for his team in regulation then popped up with the shoot-out winner as the Blue-and-Whites got a psychologically important result against in-form SKA.

The Army Men arrived on the back of a five-game hot streak that featured a 5-1 win at Metallurg. SKA was also looking to complete a sweep of three wins over former coaches, having despatched Anvar Gatiyatulin’s Traktor and Ilya Vorobyov’s Magnitka before facing Alexei Kudashov’s Dynamo. Kudashov himself, meanwhile, was looking to improve on two losses against his former club this season.

The first period saw the home team on top. SKA outshot Dynamo 10-5, and won 12 faceoffs to six. Defensively, there was plenty of hard work from the Army Men, who blocked 10 shots along the way. However, neither team could find the opening goal until early in the second period when Evgeny Timkin released Emil Galimov and he beat Ivan Bocharov to give SKA the lead.

At the other end, Dynamo still found it hard to test Lars Johansson, but early in the third period Rashevsky found the answer. His shot from the left-hand circle got through the Swede’s pads and tied the game. Subsequently, there were few scoring chances at either end, although Bocharov had to be alert to deny Anton Burdasov a late winner.

In overtime, SKA had to kill a penalty after Vladislav Tsitsyura was called for tripping. Dynamo could not exploit its man advantage, though, and the game went to a shoot-out. Here, Bocharov proved unbeatable in the visitor’s net, while Rashevsky and Oscar Lindberg got the better of Johansson to win the game for the visitor.

Boucher gives Nikitin a win over his former club

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3 CSKA Moscow 2 OT (0-0, 1-1, 1-1, 1-0)

An overtime goal from Reid Boucher gave Loko the verdict here and denied CSKA its place in a four-way tie at the top of the Western Conference. The Army Men are on 53 points, one adrift of Dynamo, Jokerit and SKA in a logjam at the summit.

However, the visitor was left frustrated in a game that it led twice only to be undone by former head coach Igor Nikitin. After leaving the Muscovites in the summer, Nikitin began the season without a job but was tempted back into action when Andrei Skabelka left Lokomotiv. Since then, he suffered an overtime loss on his return to CSKA at the start of this month but got revenge here in similar fashion.

After a goalless first period, Viktor Svedberg put CSKA in front. Lokomotiv responded shortly afterwards with a power play goal from Yegor Korshkov. For a long time, the game was locked at 1-1 but late in the third another CSKA defenseman, Nikita Nesterov, put the Army Men in front once more. Crucially, Loko responded almost immediately with Alexei Marchenko scoring on his former club to force overtime.

In the extras, Sergei Fedorov was unable to repeat his recent trick of withdrawing the goaltender and icing a fourth skater. That tactic, which brought overtime wins earlier this month, also prompted discussions about whether it fell within the rules of the game. Today, though, Lokomotiv allowed no chance to add to that debate, dominating overtime from the off. Korshkov and Boucher both had good chances before the latter potted the winner with a one-timer from the slot 38 seconds before the hooter.

Manninen’s double gives Salavat the edge

Ak Bars Kazan 2 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 4 (1-1, 1-2, 0-1)

Salavat Yulaev ended a miserable six-game losing streak against its Green Derby rival, lowering Ak Bars’ colors in front of the Kazan crowd.

One of the pre-game talking points was the weakness of the Ak Bars power play. The arrival of Mike Pelino on the coaching staff is intended to start addressing that problem, but the home team again fluffed its lines early in this game. To underline the point, Salavat Yulaev then opened the scoring on its first PP of the game, with Sakari Manninen getting the goal midway through the first period. Late in the frame, Dmitry Voronkov’s strength saw him battle away from two opponents on the boards and get into a shooting position to tie the game at the first intermission.

After 20 minutes, Ak Bars looked to be having the better of the game. However, penalty trouble hurt the home team in the second period. First, Teemu Hartikainen scored on the power play, stuffing home a rebound from Philip Larsen’s shot. Then came another home penalty and, just as Voronkov was emerging from the box, Ufa scored again. This time it was Nikolai Kulemin with a turn and shot to make it 3-1.

The Ak Bars power play finally clicked in the closing seconds of the middle frame and Kirill Petrov’s goal set up a tense final stanza. However, the fightback would have to continue without the influential Voronkov, who was injured by Alexander Khokhlachyov’s dangerous hit and left the game late in the second. Khokhlachyov, too, was ejected from the action. Ak Bars began the third period with the remainder of that major to exploit, but was unable to do so. There were more power play chances in the final stanza but, once again, Ufa held firm. Indeed, the last of them brought a short-handed goal for Manninen, finding the empty net with 11 seconds left to clinch the verdict for the visitor.

Photo: 12.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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