Tough day for Eastern giants. September 8 round-up : Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)
Thursday’s big games were in Magnitogorsk and Kazan, where two of the Eastern Conference’s powerhouses are finding things unusually tough early in the season. Ak Bars needed overtime to edge past a stubborn Admiral, while Metallurg blew a 4-2 lead and lost to Amur. Torpedo’s offense had a good day, scoring seven on Avtomobilist.
Nikolishin’s double defeats Magnitka
Two goals from Ivan Nikolishin either side of the 60th minute gave Amur a dramatic win at Metallurg. The Tigers claimed their second victory in four games, while Magnitka has just one success in its first four and has yet to win on home ice.
The early stages went in line with the reputations of the two teams. Metallurg got on top in the first period, opening the scoring when Danila Yurov’s fine pass set up Nikolai Goldobin for his first of the season. Two minutes later, Denis Zernov’s neat work behind the net created a second goal, scored by Anatoly Nikontsev. That was the end of Janis Kalnins’ evening; the Latvian goalie was replaced by Evgeny Alikin.
At the start of the second, Amur pulled a goal back when Nikolishin fed Michal Jordan for a point shot. That power play tally was the only scoring in the frame, despite Amur putting pressure on Vasily Koshechkin’s net. However, when the host began the third by extending its lead when Yurov’s touch took a Yegor Yakovlev point shot into the net, it seemed that the visitor was done.
However, the Tigers hit back immediately when Yaroslav Likhachyov fired home from the face-off dot. A power play goal from Josh Currie restored Magnitka’s two-goal cushion in the 52nd minute, but subsequently Amur took control. Vyacheslav Gretsky got one back a couple of minutes later and then Nikolishin stepped up.
His first goal came 25 seconds from the hooter, rifling in a shot from the deep slot off a feed from Igor Rudenkov. Then, 20 seconds into the extras, the same pairing combined again to create the winner.
Prior to the start of the season, many felt that the greatest challenge for Ak Bars this season would come not from the opposition, but from within. There’s no question that Oleg Znarok’s roster has the power to defeat all-comers – and a 5-1 win at defending champion CSKA underlines that point. However, it remains unclear how quickly such a stellar line-up can move from being a collection of talented individuals into playing as a true team.
The evidence of this encounter with lowly Admiral suggests that work remains in progress. Admiral made a lively start, helped by an early power play, and put some pressure on Timur Bilyalov in the home net. Even so, when Alexander Radulov snaffled up the opening goal from between the hash marks, it felt that Ak Bars was now poised to assume complete control and claim a straightforward victory.
Admiral had other ideas. The visitor continued to work hard and kept carving out shooting opportunities. Eventually, those efforts were rewarded with a power play goal from Alexander Gorshkov tying the game moments before the second intermission.
Not only did the visitor manage to take this game to overtime, it did so with a small statistical advantage over the 60 minutes. Admiral had more goal attempts (51-45) and more shots on target (33-24).
Ultimately, though, Ak Bars prevailed – albeit on a goal two seconds from the end of the extras. Vadim Shipachyov’s first goal since joining the club proved decisive: he exchanged passes with Stanislav Galiyev before ripping home a wrister from the right-hand faceoff spot.
A second-period scoring explosion powered Torpedo to victory over Avtomobilist. The home team improves to two wins from three, while the visitor suffered a second loss after winning its opening two games.
The signs were visible in the first period. Torpedo outshot the opposition 14-4, but strong goaltending from Igor Bobkov kept the Motormen in the game. And that wasn’t all. One of those four shots at the other end saw young Viktor Neuchov open his KHL account to give Avtomobilist the lead against the run of play.
However, Torpedo got a big boost late in the opening frame when Nikita Tryamkin went to the box and, seconds later, Avto was called for too many men. The two-man advantage carried into the second period, and Denis Vengryzhanovsky cashed in to tie the game. Avtomobilist restored its lead a couple of minutes later through Anatoly Golyshev, but Torpedo soon got on top.
Another power play helped Alexei Kruchinin tie the game at 2-2, and 19 seconds later Vasily Atanasov put the home team up 3-2 with his first KHL goal. He was the second teenager to score in this game, after Neuchev’s opener.
Late in the middle stanza, Torpedo took the game away from Avto. Goals from Denis Yan and Ziyat Paigin opened a three-goal lead. Avtomobilist did little to help itself, running into penalty trouble midway through the third period and inviting further tallies from Yan (his second of the game) and Sergei Goncharuk. That took the home team to seven goals, the highest score so far this season, before Stephane Da Costa got a late consolation.