Amur moved back into the playoff places after a crazy comeback win at table-topping Sibir. Despite trailing 0-3 in the first period, the Tigers found a way back with Nikita Grebyonkin scoring twice.
Having moved clear at the top of the Eastern Conference last week, Sibir began this game at a fast tempo. It took just eight minutes for the home team to jump to a three-goal lead. Valentin Pyanov opened the scoring after 23 seconds. Then Janis Kalnins, who recently signed a contract extension with Amur, took a share of the responsibility for the second after his failure to clear his lines presented Denis Golubev with the chance to double the lead. That brought Evgeny Alikin to the crease, but he was beaten within a couple of minutes by Alexei Yakovlev’s first goal of the season.
Gradually, the visitor found a foothold in the game. A five-on-three power play helped, even if it did not bring a goal. However, back at equal strength, Yaroslav Likhachyov pulled one goal back and the Grebyonkin-Gizdatullin-Dubakin line twice dinged the piping.
Pyanov got a goal in the first minute of the middle frame, repeating his trick from the first session. However, after leading 4-1, Sibir failed to score again. Instead, Amur steadily reeled in the line and turned the game around. Almost immediately, Grebyonkin potted his first on the power play. Late in the second period, he turned provider for Cam Lee to make it 3-4, also on the PP.
Two quick goals at the start of the third put Amur in front for the first time. Pavel Makhanovsky tied it up 28 seconds after the restart – this game saw a goal in the first minute of each period – then Sergei Dubakin made it 5-4 on 41:45. Dubakin, loaned to Amur from Sibir, scored on his ‘native’ team and brought about the second goaltending change of the game, with Denis Kostin taking over from Anton Krasotkin.
The action kept coming. Pyanov had a chance to complete his hat-trick and tie the game but failed to beat Alikin with a penalty shot. Then Grebyonkin got his second of the day to seal the win. The forward, on loan from Metallurg, did his Magnitogorsk colleagues a favor by inspiring a win that helps the Steelmen stay in touch with the Conference leader.
Sibir’s loss at home to Amur meant that Metallurg could close the gap to two points with victory over Barys. The Kazakhs, meanwhile, needed a win to move ahead of Amur into eighth.
Magnitka gave a well-earned rest to goalie Eddie Pasquale. Fit again Vasily Koshechkin came into the team, while his back-up was Gleb Moiseyev. The youngster appeared on a KHL roster for the first time. Otherwise, Ilya Vorobyov made minor alterations to his roster and rested Brendan Leipsic.
Barys picked up wins over Traktor and Avtomobilist on its latest tour of the Urals, so head coach Andrei Skabelka had little interest in shaking up a winning team.
In the first period, Metallurg looked the better team, save for the time Barys spent on the power play. However, despite producing more of the game’s attacking play, Magnitka fell behind to a Barys counterattack when Adil Beketayev’s wonderful stretch pass found Jeremy Bracco. He advanced to outwit Koshechkin and open the scoring. After going in front, Barys began to control more of the play. However, it was unable to extend its lead.
Right after the restart, Metallurg tied the scores. Andrei Chibisov got the goal, firing in a backhand shot blocker side that found the weakness in Julius Hudacek’s unconventional deployment of his equipment. Overall, the second period followed the pattern of the first: plenty of endeavor, a few dangerous moments but just the one goal.
In the third, Hudacek was again the busier goaltender. Metallurg pushed to win it in regulation while Barys sat back and looked to unsettle the home team on the counterattack. However, as the game entered the closing stages there were ever fewer chances to get a decisive goal.
In the end, Denis Zernov settled the outcome in Metallurg’s favor. He struck on the delayed penalty, extending his productive streak to four games and ensuring a successful outcome to Metallurg’s 1,000th home game in top-flight Russian hockey.
Ak Bars joins Metallurg and Avtomobilist on 68 points, with the top four in the East separated by just two points. At the other end, Traktor came into the day hoping to move into a playoff place, but fell to a comprehensive loss against its in-form visitor.
The visitor has built its revival under Zinetula Bilyaletdinov on disciplined defense. That’s not a surprise to anyone who recalls Bill’s previous teams. Today’s starting goalie, Timur Bilyalov, had not been beaten for 109 minutes, 26 seconds before this game. He would blank the opposition for two more periods before that run ended.
Traktor lost out twice in the extras as it slipped to the foot of the Eastern Conference. In response Anvar Gatiyatulin tweaked his line-up, replacing Pyotr Khokhryakov with Teemu Pulkkinen and swapping in two fresh defensemen.
Neither team made much of an impact early in the game. With little action in the opening exchanges, it fell to a moment of individual skill to break the deadlock. Alexander Radulov provided it, jumping on a loose puck and delivering a sizzling backhander past Sergei Mylnikov.
Late in the first period, the teams began to take penalties. That trend continued in the second and Nikita Lyamkin scored on a four-on-three power play to extend the Ak Bars lead. That was a first goal in more than 100 games for the Kazan defenseman. Traktor then failed to convert a power play of its own and Ak Bars extended its lead midway through the session when Stanislav Galiyev’s shot bounced into the net off Sergei Telegin’s stick.
It was hard to see a way back for Traktor. Even though Ak Bars opted to close out the game, rather than hunting for more goals, there was little evidence of a home revival. Midway through the third, Anton Burdasov pulled one goal back and when Kirill Adamchuk took a tripping call in the 54th minute there was, at last, some hope for the host. However, Ak Bars killed that penalty and Vasily Tokranov added a fourth to wrap up the win shortly after the teams returned to equal strength.
The coaching duel between Igor Larionov and Sergei Fedorov has been one of the more intriguing sub-plots of the 2022/23 season. Once team-mates at the Red Wings, these two members of the famed ‘Russian Five’ are now rivals behind the bench in the KHL. Fedorov’s CSKA is having slightly the better season, while Larionov’s Torpedo is winning plaudits for an attacking approach to the race for a top four place in the West.
In head-to-head games, both coaches enjoyed road wins against the other. CSKA had a 4-0 victory on its previous trip to Nizhny Novgorod, but Torpedo responded with a 4-2 success in Moscow in early December.
Very often, CSKA has a reputation for dominating long passages of play but firing in relatively few shots on goal. The Muscovites tend to wait until they can carve out clear scoring chances, rather than getting pucks to the net and worrying about the detail when they get there. Today, though, the approach was rather different. The visitor had far more attempts on goal in the opening frame, while Torpedo was more inclined to use a careful build up.
That said, the opening goal owed little to positional play. Vladislav Firstov surged down the right wing. He had various options as his team-mates hurried to join him, but instead roasted home a shot from the face-off circle. That was the only scoring in the first period, with Adam Huska stopping 18 shots to preserve the home lead.
The second period saw Torpedo devote more to its attack. The home team was helped by three CSKA penalties and even had a brief spell of five-on-three power play. However, the only goal of the frame went to the visitor and came on the penalty kill. Huska’s clearance went astray and Konstantin Okulov won possession in center ice. Mikhail Grigorenko took the play on and set up Darren Dietz in front of the Slovak’s net to tie the game.
However, Dietz’s goal was not going to save CSKA. In the 55th minute Torpedo regained the lead. Kirill Voronin went back and forth behind Alexander Sharychenkov’s net before playing the puck out to Andrei Belevich on the slot. His shot was too good for the CSKA goalie and Torpedo was back in front.
The job wasn’t done. A too many men penalty put Torpedo under pressure and CSKA looked to force the issue in the closing moments. However, Sergei Goncharuk’s empty net goal secured the points for the home team. Torpedo joins Lokomotiv and Dynamo on 72 points, with CSKA just two ahead as a group of teams jockeys for position behind SKA in the Western Conference.