A good day for travel. September 12 round-up
All five games on Monday’s KHL card went to the visitor as a dose of collective homesickness swept the league. Dinamo Minsk’s overtime win at Ak Bars was a stand-out result, while Dynamo ended Vityaz’ perfect start with a 2-0 win in Balashikha. SKA remains unbeaten following a 4-1 success at Severstal, Torpedo withstood a fightback from Neftekhimik and in Ufa, Evgeny Biryukov’s 900th game ended in a 1-3 loss at the hands of Spartak.
Spartak spoils Biryukov’s day
Salavat Yulaev defenseman Evgeny Biryukov made his 900th KHL appearance in this game. The 36-year-old has featured in all 15 seasons since the league was established, spending 12 years with Metallurg before moving to Salavat Yulaev. He has twice won the Gagarin Cup, and scored 23 goals with 118 assists in his long career. Biryukov is the first player to reach 900 KHL games. Next on the list is his former team-mate Sergei Mozyakin, now retired, with 842. Among active players, Vadim Shipachyov is second on 832.
However, Biryukov’s milestone was not one of his more memorable games. The home team was jolted in the first period when young defenseman Yaroslav Tsulygin had to be stretchered from the ice after a collision with Spartak’s Shane Prince. The Canadian was ejected from the game, but Salavat was unable to make the power play count.
The action remained scoreless until the latter half of the middle frame. Then Spartak found its finishing and punished three separate defensive errors to take control of the game. Ilya Talaluyev opened the scoring on the counterattack, then Alexander Khokhlachyov added a second on a solo rush. After that Maxim Tsyplakov made it 3-0 with a power play goal.
Salavat Yulaev needed a fast start in the third period and got it after just 12 seconds when Sergei Shmelyov pulled a goal back. That inspired a flurry of attacking play from the home team as it battled to get back into the game. However, Alexei Krasikov stood up to the onslaught and Ufa was unable to make further inroads on Spartak’s lead.
Pacquette shoots down Ak Bars
Alexander Radulov may be the biggest name to come to the KHL from North America over the summer, but today he was upstaged by Cedric Paquette. The Dinamo forward scored twice, including the winner in OT, as Ak Bars continues to search for the right formula for its star-studded roster.
Radulov had a hand in the opening goal of this game. In the 26th minute, Ak Bars turned defense into attack and Stanislav Galiyev’s shot from the deep slot got tangled up in a crowd on the slot. Radulov got a piece of the puck and managed to steer it towards Kirill Semyonov, who made it 1-0 to the home team.
However, Pacquette, a Stanley Cup winner with Tampa Bay in 2020, was destined to have the upper hand. With the Lightning, the 29-year-old center was given more of a checking role; in Minsk he’s enjoying the chance to display his creativity. First, he grabbed a short-handed goal when the Kazan power play coughed up the puck in the offensive zone. Pacquette raced away and comprehensively beat Timur Bilyalov in the home net. A similar O-zone breakdown then enabled Brandon Kozun to streak away and give Dinamo the lead early in the third.
Now it was Radulov’s turn. Five minutes after Kozun’s goal, he snaffled an equalizer from close range after Kirill Adamchuk carved through the Dinamo defense only to be halted by Konstantin Shostak. That took the game to overtime, but Pacquette proved to have the decisive move. Barely a minute into the extras, another interception sent Dinamo haring down the ice in search of a winning goal. Ak Bars withstood the initial raid, but Vladimir Alistrov brought the puck back to the danger zone and Pacquette applied the finish touch to secure a memorable win for Craig Woodcroft’s team.
Third-period rally falls short
Neftekhimik is still searching for its first victory of the season after suffering a second heavy loss at home. The Tatar team has now lost five straight, including back-to-back defeats in its opening home stand. Saturday’s 1-5 drubbing at the hands of Dinamo Minsk was followed an improved performance today, but Oleg Leontyev’s team could not secure a first win.
Torpedo, meanwhile, is enjoying a promising start to the season. Narrowly beaten by Metallurg in its opening game, Igor Larionov’s team has posted three successive wins and today’s triumph takes the team to 20 goals in four games. That’s the most productive offense in the competition. Dinamo Minsk also has 20 goals, but has played a game more.
Today, Torpedo took control early in the game. Alexei Kruchinin, seemingly revitalized after a couple of frustrating seasons, opened the scoring in the sixth minute. That’s Kruchinin’s third goal of the season and he would finish this game on 7 (3+4) points. In just four games, therefore, he’s scored more than half the tally he managed in the past two seasons.
Torpedo’s youngsters have also caught the eye in the early stages of the season, and a delayed penalty saw Denis Vengryzhanovsky – nominated as rookie of the week on Monday morning – set up Igor Larionov Jr for the second goal.
In the second period, Neftekhimik posed a greater attacking threat but was unable to find a way past Ivan Kulbakov. At the other end, Kruchinin’s assist helped Mark Marin make it 3-0 and seemingly ended the contest.
In the third, though, Neftekhimik found a way back into the game. Anthony Camara, one of the summer import signings, scored twice midway through the frame to reawaken home hopes. However, the fightback fell short and Torpedo left with the win.
SKA defends last unbeaten run
That loss for Vityaz means SKA is the only team still undefeated this season. A trip to Cherepovets had the potential to be awkward for Roman Rotenberg’s team, but after allowing an early goal his men secured a comfortable victory.
Severstal came into the game buoyed by wins over both of last year’s Gagarin Cup finalists and that confidence saw the Steelmen attack from the off. Ruslan Abrosimov gave the home team the lead after 29 seconds and another Andrei Razin upset looked entirely possible.
SKA, though, was not going to follow that script. Maxim Groshev’s short-handed goal soon had the scores level and in-form Marat Khairullin gave the visitor the lead before the intermission. Khairullin added two more points today and has scored 7 (6+1) in his last three outings. Since leaving Neftekhimik, this forward looks to have added another level to his play.
Once in front, the visitor maintained its grip until the end. Zakhar Bardakov added a third in the middle frame, albeit with the help of a generous deflection of a defenseman’s skate. And in the third, Igor Ozhiganov potted a power play goal to complete the scoring. SKA moves clear at the top of the table with five wins from five games.
Dynamo ends Vityaz streak
With four straight wins, Vityaz was enjoying its best ever start to a KHL season. Today, though, that streak came to an abrupt halt as Dynamo left Balashikha with the points.
The first period produced few scoring chances and the teams managed just eight shots on target between them. In the second, Dynamo picked up the pace and forced Dmitry Shikin into 15 saves but neither side could find the opening.
It took the visitor’s second power play of the evening to break the deadlock in the 48th minute. The newly-assembled Blue-and-White strike trio of Jordan Weal, Jakob Lilja and Eric O’Dell took to the ice, combining for O’Dell to lash home a one-timer from between the hash marks.
That forced Vityaz to play a more attacking game in the closing stages, challenging Dynamo’s long-held control of possession. However, there was no way past Ilya Konovalov in the visitor’s net. He finished with 17 save to record his second shut-out for his new club. Weal completed the win with an empty-net goal.