Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Young Ak Bars forward Ilya Safonov had a day to remember, scoring three goals including the overtime winner as his team rallied to beat Metallurg. Western Conference leader SKA also suffered defeat on the road, losing in Khabarovsk for the first time since 2007. In the race for the playoffs, there were important wins for Neftekhimik, Barys and Spartak, while Sibir got the better of Salavat Yulaev in overtime.

Tigers roar back to down SKA

Amur Khabarovsk 3 SKA St. Petersburg 2 (1-1, 0-1, 2-0)

Amur got a home win over SKA for the first time in 14 years after scoring two goals in the space of a minute in the third period. The last time the Tigers defeated the Army Men at the Platinum Arena was in 2007, before the KHL was founded.

The Western Conference leader came to town to face a team on a five-game skid and in danger of losing contention with the playoff places. SKA’s success has been driven in part by a hugely efficient power play, and Amur became the latest team to experience this late in the first period when Andrei Kuzmenko opened the scoring with a fine piece of individual skill. Amur managed a quick response when Gleb Zyryanov tied the scores, but midway through the second period another PP enabled Anton Burdasov to restore the visitor’s lead. Budasov also drew a great save from Evgeny Alikin, as did strike partner Zakhar Bardakov, promoted to center the first line in place of Joonas Kemppainen.

In the midst of all this, though, Amur was also creating chances. Ivan Nikolishin and Vladimir Butuzov both threatened the SKA net before the third period brought a rapid transformation of the home team’s fortunes. There was an element of good luck about Alexander Gorshkov’s tying goal: he seemed to be firing the puck across the face of Dmitry Nikolayev’s net and was delighted to see the puck bounce off the goalie and over the line. That seemed to disconcert the netminder and he was soon beaten once again when Sergei Tereshchenko scored on the power play. That brought up 100 points in the KHL for the defenseman and, more importantly, secured two vital points for his team in today’s game.

Neftekhimik consolidates in top eight

Admiral Vladivostok 2 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 4 (1-1, 1-1, 0-2)

Neftekhimik avenged its shoot-out loss here two days ago thanks to a pair of goals early in the third period. The win moves Neftekhimik four points clear in eighth place.

The visitor got in front early in the first period when Evgeny Mityakin converted the first power play of the game after six minutes. However, Admiral tied it up late in the opening stanza thanks to Dmitry Sayustov. In the second period, it was the home team that struck first on the power play, with Vyacheslav Ushenin on target. However, Neftekhimik quickly tied it up as Slava Leshchenko’s purple patch continued. The forward has four goals in four games since moving to Nizhnekamsk.

The deadlock was decisively broken at the start of the third. A power play goal from Mikhail Sidorov made it 3-2, then the defenseman got an assist as Marat Khairullin added a fourth on 44:09 to set up a valuable victory.

Photo: 27.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Admiral (Vladivostok) - Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)

Shore topples Ufa in OT

Sibir Novosibirsk 3 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 2 OT (0-1, 2-1, 0-0, 1-0)

Salavat Yulaev came to Novosibirsk without two Finnish stars. Teemu Hartikainen and Sakari Manninen were missing due to illness and injury, giving Danil Alalykin a chance to play on the first line.

Initially, the visitor coped well without its big names. Admittedly, the opening goal came as a result of an error from home D-man Michal Cajkovsky, who inexplicably passed the puck to the opposition and enabled Nikolai Kulemin to score. However, the first period saw Ufa limit the opportunities for the home offense and get to the intermission with that one-goal lead intact.

After the break, Jyrki Jokipakka was close to repeating Cajkovsky’s blunder as the home team again endured some nervous moments on defense. Moments later, though, Sibir tied it up when Oleg Li’s shot was redirected home by Valentin Pyanov. Then came a dangerous Ufa power play, but Sibir survived and eventually took the lead late in the stanza on a PP of its own. Cajkovsky picked up an assist and Evgeny Chesalin found the net. The celebrations did not last for long, however, as Mikhail Naumenkov tied it up before the second intermission.

There was no scoring in the third period as the Ufa defense worked hard to keep Sibir to the outside while Anton Krasotkin ate up everything that came his way at the other end. In overtime, Nick Shore put the first shot of the extras into the Salavat net to give Sibir the verdict.

Shoot-out success for Barys

Barys Nur-Sultan 3 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 2 SO (2-1, 0-1, 0-0, 0-0, 1-0)

Avtomobilist’s problems continue with a shoot-out loss in Kazakhstan. The Motormen have now lost five in a row and are losing ground on the top eight. Nikolai Zavarukhin’s team now has two points to make up on Barys, which holds onto eighth place.

This was always going to be a tense affair, with both teams in need of the points to boost their post-season prospects. Barys benefitted from a good start, opening the scoring through Nikita Mikhailis after three minutes. However, the first power play of the game saw Stephane Da Costa tie it up. Late in the session, Mikhailis turned provider, collecting an assist as Curtis Valk added a goal to his helper on the opener.

Barys enjoyed a clear advantage in the opening frame and continued to have the better of the play in the second. However, it could not extend its lead and was punished late in the session when Anatoly Golyshev got his first since returning to Avtomobilist. It started with Joe Morrow turning over the puck, but Golyshev still had plenty to do to evade the attentions of the home defense and lift a shot over the shoulder of Joni Ortio.

That was the end of the scoring. Avtomobilist started brightly in the third, but Ortio kept the opposition at bay and after a penalty on Sergei Shumakov the game calmed down somewhat. In overtime, Valk took a minor to hand the visitor the initiative, but the Motormen could not take advantage. In the final second of the extras, shoot-out specialist Vladimir Galkin came into the game to replace Dmitry Shikin but Avto’s goaltending switch didn’t work out. Jakob Lilja and Linden Vey were on target for Barys to give the home team a valuable win against a playoff rival.

Photo: 27.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Barys (Nur-Sultan) - Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg)

Safonov hat-trick stuns Metallurg

Ak Bars Kazan 4 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3 OT (1-1, 0-0, 2-2, 1-0)

A stunning late rally from Ak Bars saw the home team retrieve a 1-3 deficit against the league leader. Metallurg looked to have the game won when Josh Currie potted the third on 54:48 but two late goals saw Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team tie the scores before Ilya Safonov completed his hat-trick with the overtime winner.

Today’s game saw Mike Pelino on the home bench against the first team he worked with in Russia — and it finished with the experienced Canadian coach celebrating his first victory since arriving in Kazan last week as an assistant to Kvartalnov. Today he saw 20-year-old forward Safonov enjoy the best game of his career to date. The youngster started by opening the scoring early on, only to see Philippe Maillet put Magnitka level with Nikolai Goldobin’s assist taking him to 5 (2+3) points in three games.

The second period was goalless, but Alexei Maklyukov put the visitor in front early in the third and Currie’s strike seemed to have made the game safe for Ilya Vorobyov’s men. However, Ak Bars had other ideas. On a delayed penalty, Safonov gave the home team hope when he got to Danis Zaripov’s feed and squeezed a shot in off the post. Then, with the home team deploying six skaters, Dmitry Kagarlitsky played a similar pass from the opposite flank and Par Lindholm steered the puck home 64 seconds before the hooter.

That took us to overtime, and Safonov settled the issue with a long-range shot that deceived Juho Olkinuora. Defenseman Jason Demers, a deadline-beating signing for Ak Bars, marked his KHL debut with an assist on that play to help his team grab a dramatic victory.

Photo: 27.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

Spartak tightens its grip on a playoff place

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 1 Spartak Moscow 3 (0-1, 1-0, 0-2)

Spartak’s second victory over Torpedo this season helped the Red-and-Whites open a five-point gap over its ninth-placed opponent. For the home team, though, this was a missed opportunity to draw level on points with eighth-placed Dinamo Minsk in a close-fought Western playoff race.

Former Dinamo player Ivan Drozdov opened the scoring in the 15th minute, a goal that did his former club no harm at all as it looks to keep in front of Torpedo. However, the home team cancelled out that effort 23 seconds into the middle frame when Kenny Agostino scored. Andy Miele’s assist extends his productive streak to eight games.

Spartak would not be denied, though. The teams were deadlocked going into the third period before Drozdov got involved again with an assist as Dmitry Kugryshev restored the visitor’s lead. And any doubt about the outcome was resolved when Alexander Khokhlachyov scored into an empty net to seal the verdict.

Photo: 27.12.21. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod) - Spartak (Moscow)

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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