Salavat Yulaev wrapped up its Far East tour with a second victory in Khabarovsk. Wednesday’s shoot-out success moved Ufa to 10 points and lifted Viktor Kozlov’s team to fifth in the Eastern Conference.
For Amur, meanwhile, this was a fourth straight loss. More worryingly, Vadim Yepanchintsev’s team has scored just four goals in those games and was shut out twice along the way. One possible solution to those problems in front of the opposition net might be Yaroslav Likhachyov. The young forward caught the eye was goals in three successive games earlier this season and today he opened the scoring in the eighth minute.
Late in the first period, though, Ufa turned the game around. Alexander Chmelevski tied the scores then, in the final minute of the frame, Sergei Shmelyov put the visitor up 2-1. Amur drew level late in the second period through Cam Lee, a second goal in three games for the Canadian defenseman.
That secured a share of the points in regulation, with neither team able to find a winner in the third period. However, Salavat Yulaev repeated Monday’s win here in the shoot-out with Shmelyov getting the winner.
Magnitka extended its winning streak to five games and overtook Avtomobilist at the Eastern Conference summit thanks to a second win in Vladivostok. Once again, head coach Ilya Vorobyov left Nikolai Goldobin out of his line-up. The forward was a big player in last season’s run to the Gagarin Cup final but, according to the coach, he needs to regain the form he showed at that time.
In Goldobin’s absence, Metallurg needed little time to take the lead. Denis Zernov opened the scoring after 35 seconds, adding to the goal he got in Monday’s 2-0 win here. However, instead of building on that advantage, the visitor allowed its early momentum to dissipate. After running into penalty trouble, the Steelmen gave up a tying goal when Rudolf Cerveny converted Admiral’s second power play of the game.
At the start of the second period, Metallurg again struck early. This time Vladislav Yeryomenko was on target for his first goal of the season. The visitor again looked capable of extending its lead, but the best chance came at the other end when a schoolboy error on the power play led to a penalty shot for Cerveny. The Czech forward was unable to add to his earlier goal, however, and Eddie Pasquale won that duel.
In the final frame, Metallurg’s defense did its job almost flawlessly, and the game was put beyond doubt when Philippe Maillet scored into an empty net.
Igor Larionov’s Torpedo moved to a share of second in the West after edging past Traktor to make it six wins from seven games. The visitor, meanwhile, suffered a second successive loss and is currently just outside the playoff spots in the East after a frustratingly inconsistent start.
One of the hallmarks of Larionov’s coaching is his faith in emerging players. His earlier roles included time with Russia’s juniors and ‘B’ teams, and he has continued to emphasize player development at Torpedo. The rewards keep coming. Today’s opening goal was scored by Maxim Letunov, a 26-year-old forward making only his third KHL appearance. He was assisted by 20-year-old prospect Nikita Shavin, another in his first season in this league.
That opening goal was just reward for a bright start to the game: Torpedo led Traktor 7-1 in shots and deservedly got in front in the sixth minute. However, one of the challenges of working with inexperienced players is maintaining consistency. In the latter half of the period, Torpedo allowed Traktor to build up momentum, culminating in a tying goal from Sergei Kalinin.
In the second period, the host took control with a couple of quick goals. Danil Veryayev and Kenny Agostino were the scorers, and again there were contributions from rising stars with teenager Vasily Atanasov collecting his fifth point in eight games. That all followed a bright start to the second period from Traktor, helped by a penalty for Yu Sato. The visitor had to wait until later in the frame to get on the scoresheet again with Vladimir Tkachyov grabbing a power play goal.
Torpedo restored its two-goal lead late in the middle session when Alexei Kruchinin made it 4-2. Traktor kept it interesting, with a goal from Albert Yarullin midway through the third, but the home team was good enough to finish the job and move to within four points of league leader SKA.
These two teams have followed contrasting paths this season. This was their third meeting in less than three weeks and the results tell the story. Vityaz won the first encounter during its four-game winning streak at the start of the season. At that time Lokomotiv was struggling for form, and its hard-fought shoot-out win over Vityaz on Saturday was an important psychological boost for Igor Nikitin’s team.
Today, Loko came to Balashikha and won again. In doing so, the Railwaymen moved a point clear of Vityaz in a Western Conference table where just three points separate second-placed Spartak and Severstal in ninth. It’s still tight, but the trends suggest that Loko might be on the right track at last.
Ivan Chekhovich has played his part in that revival. Today he scored for the second game in a row, moving to four for the season and setting his team on the road to victory. Alexander Polunin extended that lead early in the second period when he redirected an Alexander Yelesin shot beyond Dmitry Shikin.
Lokomotiv was good value for its lead after having much the better of the first two periods. However, when Roman Abrosimov halved the deficit midway through the third, this game was very much alive. An ill-timed penalty for Alexei Volgin took some of the force out of the fightback, and Ivan Bocharov denied Jeremy Roy late on to secure the points for the visitor.
Avangard’s early problems are fading into distant memory. The Hawks waited a long time for a win, but today’s success at struggling Sochi makes it three in a row for Dmitry Ryabykin’s men. The Leopards, meanwhile, remain stuck at the foot of the Western Conference with just two points so far.
Before the game, there was much speculation about whether Andrei Nazarov would set up the home team for another fight with Avangard. In pre-season, the two piled up penalty minutes in a so-called ‘friendly’ game, and Sochi’s publicity for Wednesday’s meeting was in the style of a UFC bout.
In the event, though, Avangard delivered a knock-out blow inside the first four minutes. Kristian Jaros opened the scoring after 67 seconds and Nail Yakupov doubled the lead on 3:30. By that time, neither team had taken a penalty and it was Avangard’s youngster Arseny Gritsyuk who was first to fall foul of the officials. He took two minor penalties in the first period and between them, Nikita Popugayev pulled one back for Sochi.
The home team had understudy goalie Alexei Melnichuk to thank for blunting the Avangard offense for long periods. Entering the game after the second goal, he remained unbeaten until midway through the third period. However, Sochi was unable to add to Popugayev’s tally and, in the closing stages, Reid Boucher and Semyon Chistyakov added power play goals to complete a comfortable win.
On Sunday, Oleg Znarok returned to Spartak and enjoyed a 4-1 win over his former club. Today, though, the Red-and-Whites got their revenge. The visitor snapped Ak Bars’ three-game winning run and silenced the host’s stellar offense.
Goalie Alexei Krasikov deserved the plaudits that came his way after making 34 saves to secure his first shut-out of the season. However, this was no instance of an underdog withstanding siege-like pressure. Spartak got 30 shots at Timur Bilyalov at the other end and took the verdict thanks to a pair of quick goals early in the third period.
The first goal went to Yegor Savikov, with the promising 19-year-old defenseman connecting with Roman Starchenko’s feed to smash a one timer from the blue line beyond Bilyalov. The goal came just as Dinar Khafizullin returned to the ice after serving a penalty for Ak Bars.
Within a minute, it was 2-0. This time, a quick break out saw Shane Prince find Alexander Khokhlachyov in the center of the Ak Bars zone. The Spartak forward advanced on the net and picked out the corner to double the lead.
Ak Bars will feel things may have been very different if the officials had taken a different view of Dmitry Voronkov’s ninth-minute goal. However, a lengthy review established that the forward fouled Krasikov on his way to the net and the play was whistled off. The goaltending duel continued throughout the second period, but that quick salvo at the start of the third proved decisive as Spartak ended a three-game skid.