Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Metallurg returned to the top of the KHL standings with a 3-1 win at home to Lokomotiv, while SKA’s 3-0 success over Torpedo consolidated the Army Men’s position at the Western summit. Fellow army club CSKA lost ground after losing in overtime to Vityaz. Ak Bars missed the chance to confirm its playoff place following a defeat at Admiral, Spartak’s winning streak ended in Khabarovsk and Avangard blanked Dinamo Minsk.

Spartak suffers first loss in six

Amur Khabarovsk 3 Spartak Moscow 2 OT (0-1, 1-1, 1-0, 1-0)

Amur snapped Spartak’s five-game winning streak and moved to within a point of the Eastern playoff places after twice coming from behind at home to the Red-and-Whites.

An early penalty on visiting goalie Alexei Krasikov led to the opening goal of the game, but not in his net. Ivan Drozdov got clear on a breakaway to pot a shorthanded goal, his 11th of the season. Beyond that, there was little to choose between the teams in the first period.

Spartak made a brighter start to the second stanza, only for Amur to get the tying goal. Vladimir Butuzov converted Ivan Nikolishin’s feed, and both forward extended their productive streaks to four games. But it wasn’t long before Spartak’s first power play of the game enabled Alexander Khokhlachyov to restore the visitor’s lead.

The Muscovites tried to close out the game in the third period, but Ruslan Pedan’s long-range effort brought the Tigers level once again in the 54th minute. Overtime lasted just 38 seconds before Radan Lenc secured the home win with an accurate shot to the top shelf.

Admiral delays Ak Bars’ playoff ticket

Admiral Vladivostok 4 Ak Bars Kazan 2 (1-2, 2-0, 1-0)

Ak Bars came to Vladivostok knowing that an overtime loss or better would be enough to officially secure a playoff spot once again. However, despite taking a first-period lead, Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team was unable to finish the job today and must wait a bit longer before booking its playoff berth.

Admiral, looking to snap a three-game losing streak, made several changes. Goalie Alexander Lazushin got his first start following his move from Kunlun Red Star and head coach Leonids Tambijevs had plenty of new faces among his skaters, including another recent signing Pavel Shen, once a Bruins prospect.

The Sailors had enjoyed more recovery time than the opposition and that was visible from the start. Dmitry Sayustov was close to scoring on the first shift, then Miks Indrasis could have done better with a one-on-one break before Libor Sulak potted the opener — shorthanded — midway through the opening frame. Ak Bars responded strongly, with Par Lindholm converting the same power play before Ilya Safonov gave the visitor the lead late in the first period.

The middle session saw Shen tie the scores with his first goal since joining Admiral from Sochi. And late in the frame, Alexander Shevchenko put the home team back in front. By the second intermission, the home team might have been further ahead as Ak Bars struggled to keep with the pace at the end of a long tour to the East. Timur Bilyalov performed well to ensure it remained a one-goal game.

The visitor began the third with a flurry of chances, the best of which saw Dmitry Kagarlitsky firing wide from close range. Tambijevs called a time-out to calm his players and was rewarded with a goal from Sayustov to extend the lead. Josh Kestner might have put the game out of reach midway through the period, but Bilyalov was equal to both a penalty shot and a later one-on-one break. However, Ak Bars was unable to find a way back and Admiral celebrated its first win in four games.

Photo: 07.01.22. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Admiral (Vladivostok) - Ak Bars (Kazan)

Fedorov beaten by his own tactic

CSKA Moscow 3 Vityaz Moscow Region 4 OT (0-1, 2-0, 1-2, 0-1)

Vityaz took a leaf out of CSKA’s playbook and withdrew goalie Igor Saprykin to grab an overtime victory against the Army Men. Sergei Fedorov has earned a reputation for playing with an empty net in the extras but today he was on the receiving end of that tactic and saw Fyodor Malykhin redirect a Yegor Voronkov effort past Ivan Fedotov to give the visitor the win.

That goal snapped a 3-3 tie following an entertaining 60 minutes in Moscow. CSKA was the more threatening offensive force, outshooting Vityaz 38-15 across regulation time. However, the visitor took its chances when they came and managed to stay in contention, with Saprykin making 35 saves along the way.

The home team dominated the first period, only to fall behind when Konstantin Okulov was called for tripping and Daniel Audette opened the scoring on the power play. CSKA continued to press, but was unable to change the scoreline until late in the second period. Then a power play goal from Andrei Svetlakov tied the game and, two minutes later Mikhail Grigorenko put the Army Men ahead. Teenage defenseman Vladimir Grudinin got an assist on Grigorenko’s goal to record his first point in the KHL.

The pattern of play did not much change in the third period, with CSKA continuing to have far more of the attacking opportunities. However, Vityaz produced two quick goals midway through the frame as Malykhin tied it up before Miro Aaltonen put the visitor up 3-2. Alexander Popov salvaged a point for the Army Men with a 58th-minute marker, but Malykhin’s second of the game decided it in overtime.

Photo: 07.01.22. KHL Championship 2021-2022. CSKA (Moscow) - Vityaz (Moscow Region)

Magnitka back on top

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 1 (3-1, 0-0, 0-0)

Metallurg’s first home game of 2022 saw the Steelmen return to the top of the KHL standings with victory over Lokomotiv. The Railwaymen, defeated in overtime in Chelyabinsk two days earlier, missed the chance to overtake Spartak into sixth place but remain six points clear of Torpedo, the closest team to the playoff places.

The visitor was under pressure from the start here but managed to withstand Magnitka’s early storm and snatched the lead in the third minute when Pavel Kraskovsky’s face-off win set up Yegor Korshkov for a laser of a shot. However, the home team’s pressure paid off in the latter half of the opening frame. Nikolai Goldobin tied it up on the first power play of the game and as the intermission approached, Metallurg built a two-goal lead. Anatoly Nikontsev skated clear and won his duel with Daniil Isayev then Denis Zernov made it 3-1 with a deflected shot in the 19th minute.

There was no further scoring. Reid Boucher came closest to reducing the deficit for Lokomotiv, but Juho Olkinuora did well to shut down his chance. The Finnish goalie had a busy time in the middle frame, with Metallurg managing just one shot at the other end. Olkinuora stopped 18 efforts, and a further 11 were blocked by the home D.

The pattern of play did not change significantly in the third period, with Metallurg continuing to play defensively and Lokomotiv unable to force a breakthrough. The final outcome saw the home team triumph; Loko hasn’t won here since 2013.

Photo: 07.01.22. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

SKA silences Torpedo

SKA St. Petersburg 3 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 0 (0-0, 2-0, 1-0)

Leo Komarov was on target again as SKA consolidated its lead in the Western Conference. The Finnish international took some time to open his account after joining the Army Men, but today’s strike means he has four in five games for his new club.

For Torpedo, another defeat keeps David Nemirovsky’s team adrift of the playoff places. Tuesday’s success at Sochi ended a four-game losing streak, but consistent winning form has been hard to establish in Nizhny Novgorod this season and the visitor rarely looked like posting another victory here.

True, the score was blank at the first intermission, but the shot count — 16-2 in SKA’s favor — told the story of the game. Pyotr Kochetkov’s hard work kept Torpedo in contention against the club he briefly represented in 2019-2020, but the home team’s dominance suggested the opening goal was only a matter of time.

That time turned out to be 22:55. Mikko Lehtonen joined the attack and chased Nikita Gusev’s pass into the corner. From there, he fired the puck back to the slot where Mikhail Vorobyov rifled home a one-timer. Within two minutes, Komarov doubled the lead, converting Anton Burdasov’s set-up and taking the game away from Torpedo.

Subsequently, the visitor began to show more on offense, but was unable to find a way past Lars Johansson. Any doubts about the outcome were ended early in the third when Andrei Kuzmenko’s power play goal made it 3-0, and Johansson finished the day with his ninth shut-out of the season, equalling his best return in the KHL with CSKA in 2018-2019.

Sochi snaps five-game skid

HC Sochi 4 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 1 (0-0, 1-1, 3-0)

A strong third period brought an end to Sochi’s five-game losing streak. Doubles from Yury Alexandrov and Martin Bakos saw Andrei Nazarov’s team post a convincing victory. For Neftekhimik, Slava Leshchenko’s goal-scoring streak came to an end; previously the forward had found the net in each of his first six games for his new club.

After a goalless opening session, Alexandrov put Sochi in front midway through the second. That lead was short-lived, with Eduard Gimatov cancelling it out a minute later. By the end of the middle frame, the visitor had a significant advantage in shots on goal (23-14) and seemed well placed to go for the win in the third.

However, that final stanza began with Alexandrov getting his second to restore the home lead. This time, there was no swift response. Instead, midway through the frame, Bakos scored twice in two minutes. That moved the Slovak international on to nine goals for the season on his return to the team and sealed his team’s first win since Dec. 21.

Semyonov on target in Avangard win

Avangard Omsk 3 Dinamo Minsk 0 (1-0, 1-0, 1-0)

Simon Hrubec made 30 saves and Kirill Semyonov scored his first goal since returning to Russia as Avangard overcame Dinamo Minsk.

Dinamo’s recent three-game winning streak opened some daylight between the Bison and ninth-placed Torpedo in the Western playoff race. But if Craig Woodcroft’s men were hoping for more today, they reckoned without Avangard’s fast start. The Hawks struck after 43 seconds when Nail Yakupov had time on the slot to send Kirill Gotovets’ feed beyond Patrik Rybar.

Minsk played a full part in the first period, and was the more enterprising team in the second, outshooting Avangard 15-3 in that middle stanza. However, the only goal came at the other end when Yakupov turned provider and Kirill Semyonov doubled the lead. That’s the 27-year-old’s first goal since returning to Avangard following a short spell with the Maple Leafs organization.

The visitor remained the more aggressive of the teams in the third period but fell further behind to a Corban Knight goal early in the session. After that, the visitor’s dominance was not enough to force a way back into the contest. Simon Hrubec performed well in the Avangard net, making 30 saves for his fifth shut-out of the season. And a late penalty on Malte Stromwall drew the teeth from any final Minsk surge as Avangard secured its first victory of 2022.

Photo: 07.01.22. KHL Championship 2021-2022. Avangard (Omsk) - Dinamo (Minsk)

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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