Admiral Vladivostok 1 Spartak Moscow 2 SO (0-0, 0-0, 1-1, 0-0, 0-1)
Spartak snapped its losing streak with a hard-fought victory in Vladivostok. The Red-and-Whites had lost four of their last five, including their last two on the road before edging past Admiral.
Admiral, an expansion team in the 2013-2014 season, was playing its 500th game in the KHL. There was further cause for celebration with news that Sailors’ captain Libor Sulak had been chosen for December’s All-Star Game in Chelyabinsk (Spartak’s young D-man Yegor Savikov also made the list).
However, none of that inspired a festival of hockey. Instead the two teams largely struggled to create scoring chances and it wasn’t until the 55th minute that the first goal arrived, courtesy of Spartak’s Phil Varone.
The visitor may have thought that was game over, but Admiral struck back with a couple of minutes to play. Michal Kristof set up the move, exchanged passes with Colby Williams and finished the play himself, beating Patrik Rybar to force overtime.
However, when it came to the shoot-out, Spartak was on top. The visitor converted three of its five attempts and Maxim Tsyplakov’s effort was the decider.
Barys Astana 0 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 5 (0-4, 0-1, 0-0)
Vasily Koshechkin pitched his 90th KHL shut-out – and the 115th in his career in Russian hockey – to help Metallurg to a convincing victory in Kazakhstan.
In recent seasons, these two teams have become familiar foes. Aside from their regular season meetings, they’ve met in each of the last three playoffs. Moreover, they played twice in their preparations for the coming campaign.
If familiarity seemed likely to result in a close game, that expectation was rapidly confounded. Metallurg, with former Barys players Pavel Akolzin and Alexei Maklyukov in the team, tore into the home side during an impressive first period and fired in four unanswered goals. That paved the way for a convincing victory as Ilya Vorobyov’s men halted a losing streak.
However, it might have been very different. Magnitka’s opening goal came immediately after Barys forward Anthony Louis pulled the visiting defense out of position and set up Yury Sergiyenko on the blue line. However, instead of a shot from a dangerous position, the defenseman failed to control the pass. Metallurg seized the puck and Anatoly Nikontsev celebrated his return from injury from releasing Semyon Koshelev for the opening goal.
Nikontsev’s day got even better: he added a goal of his own later in the opening frame. That was one of three power play tallies for the Steelmen, with Nikolai Goldobin and Brendan Leipsic also finding the net. Goldobin marked his goal with a celebration inspired by soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo. Four goals in the first period spelled the end of Nikita Boyarkin’s evening in the home net. Julius Hudacek replaced the youngster.
Barys got a power play chance of its own at the start of the second period. However, the home team was unable to match the lethal efficiency of Metallurg’s power play, but could not force a breakthrough. It was left to the Nikontsev-Koshelev connection to complete the scoring midway through the session, reducing the remaining action to a formality. Nikontsev finished with 3 (1+2) points on his return, Koshechkin’s 19 saves secured his shut-out and Metallurg goes clear at the top in the East.
CSKA Moscow 4 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 1 (2-0, 0-1, 2-0)
Avtomobilist’s rise to the top of the Eastern Conference has been eye-catching. However, there were some questions about the Motormen’s ability to live with the best teams in the league. This road trip to the West looks likely to add to those doubts.
On Wednesday, Avto lost 1-3 at table-topping SKA. Today, in Moscow, it faced defending champion CSKA. The home team is on a tear, recording six straight wins ahead of Friday’s game. After an inconsistent start to the season, Sergei Fedorov’s team could move to second in the standings with the right result here.
In Moscow, Avtomobilist made a lively start and created a couple of half chances in the opening shifts. Gradually, though, CSKA got its game going and took the lead midway through the first period. The home team had a two-on-two rush and Konstantin Okulov sprinted into the zone, picked his moment and ripped a shot to the top corner.
A couple of minutes later it was 2-0. Fredrik Claesson moved down the left and got the puck to the center, where Anton Slepyshev fired in a shot on the turn. Johan Mattsson blocked that effort, but the rebound went straight to Klaesson, who duly put the puck in the net. The teams continued to trade attacks for the rest of the opening stanza, but Maxim Mamin came closest to adding to CSKA’s total with a vicious shot that forced a blocker save from Mattsson.
In the second period, the Motormen raised their game and took control of the play for long periods. However, the CSKA defense held on until late in the session, when penalty trouble gave Avtomobilist a 5-on-3 power play. Nikolai Zavarukhin called a time-out, set up the play and watched on as Nick Ebert’s point shot and Patrice Cormier’s niggle on the slot set up Anatoly Golyshev to score from a tight angle.
At the start of the third, CSKA looked to restore its two-goal lead. Mattsson was kept busy in the visitor’s net, and the Muscovites came close to adding a third when a turnover resulted in Mikhail Grigorenko clipping the outside of the post.
Avtomobilist never really got going in response and the game finished with a CSKA flourish. Young forward Artyom Duda, playing only his second game in the KHL, collected his first point with a helper as Sergei Plotnikov made it 3-1. Avto replaced Mattsson with a sixth skater, which felt like a token gesture rather than a genuine chance to change the outcome. It was little surprise that Vitaly Abramov found the empty net to wrap up another win for the defending champ. Avto yields top spot in the East to Metallurg.
SKA St. Petersburg 3 Kunlun Red Star 2 (1-0, 1-2, 1-0)
The last time these teams met, they shared nine goals in an entertaining and attacking game in Mytishchi. Today, things started far more cautiously. The Dragons outshot SKA 7-6 in a tight first period, but it was the home team that got the only goal thanks to Mikhail Vorobyov midway through the session. In the closing stages, Devin Brosseau got into a fight with Alexander Nikishin. There’s a beef between Kunlun and SKA’s young defenseman after his hit in last month’s encounter left influential forward Tyler Wong injured. Wong has yet to return to action and Brosseau may well have been motivated by that incident.
In the middle session, the visitor did its talking with the puck. Parker Foo tied the scores with an impressive goal. The Red Star forward showed great movement and anticipation, first in adopting a position to feed Zac Leslie at the point, then in moving to the perfect spot to get free of the defense and redirect Leslie’s drilled pass beyond Alexander Samonov.
SKA got back in front midway through the frame thanks to a fantastic piece of deception from Damir Zhafyarov. He got the puck in a central position and feinted a shot that sent two defensemen scurrying out of position. His shooting lane now clear, Zhafyarov then zinged a wrister beyond Jeremy Smith.
However, Red Star continued to make a fight of it, and the 40th minute saw Jack Rodewald tie it up once more. Doyle Somerby got the puck to the slot, and even though it dropped slightly behind Rodewald he was able to get his shot beyond Samonov.
This season, the Dragons have proved to be no respecter of reputation. However, there was not destined to be another memorable win for the Chinese franchise. Early in the third, Vorobyov played a pass into the path of the onrushing Marat Khusnutdinov and the youngster produced a clinical finish to win the game.