SKA keeps winning, Avangard starts winning.
SKA extended its winning streak to seven games at the start of the season, edging Dynamo in a hard-fought game in Moscow. There was relief for Avangard, which got its first win of the season at the seventh attempt thanks to a 5-2 win at Barys. However, Neftekhimik is still seeking its first success after a 0-4 loss at Traktor. Avtomobilist beat Sibir in the battle of the East’s early leaders, Ak Bars moved into second thanks to an OT win over Dinamo Minsk and Torpedo needed the extras to edge past Spartak. Kunlun Red Star posted a 3-1 victory over Sochi as Garet Hunt got into his latest fight.
Hawks victorious at last
Barys Nur-Sultan 2 Avangard Omsk 5 (1-2, 0-3, 1-0)
At the seventh time of asking, Avangard secured its first victory of the KHL season. The second of its back-to-back games at Barys brought the long-awaited win and secured a first success for Dmitry Ryabykin in his new role as head coach of the Hawks.
Ryabykin made three changes to the team that lost 3-5 yesterday. Forward Nail Yakupov and defenseman Fyodor Belyakov were scratched with Nikita Mikhailov and Timofei Davydov called in to replace them. Vasily Demchenko got the start in goal.
The visitor made a bright start, dominating the early exchanges and taking the lead in the ninth minute. Vladimir Zharkov battled for the puck behind the net and set up Alexander Dergachyov on the slot for a one-timer. This was the first time in five games that Avangard opened the scoring.
Late in the frame, the teams traded goals. Avangard extended its lead when Mikhail Gulyayev’s point shot sparked a scrummage on the slot. Vladimir Tkachyov got control of the puck and set up Sergei Tolchinsky for a calm finish into an open net. Exactly one minute later, though, Barys pulled a goal back through Yegor Petukhov.
Given Avangard’s recent form, allowing that late goal might have proved demoralizing. Instead, though, the Hawks came out for the middle frame and put the game to bed. Reid Boucher extended the lead on the power play, and 49 seconds later Semyon Chistyakov made it 4-1, scoring on replacement goalie Nikita Boyarkin. The visitor never relinquished its control of the game and added a fifth goal through Alexei Bereglazov late in the frame.
True, Barys got one back at the start of the third period when Linden Vey reduced the arrears. However, even with the help of two power play chances, the home team could make no further inroads as Avangard calmly closed out its first win of the campaign.
Proskuryakov blanks winless Neftekhimik
Traktor Chelyabinsk 4 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 0 (2-0, 2-0, 0-0)
Avangard’s success means that Neftekhimik is the last remaining team without a win in this season’s KHL. And, in truth, Oleg Leontyev’s team never looked like adding to its solitary point in this game. Not even the return of fit again Rafael Bikmullin, one of five changes to the Neftekhimik roster, could lift the team as Traktor bounced back from its disappointing road trip.
The opening exchanges saw the home team assume control of the game. There were several penalties early on, and Traktor’s power play opened the scoring in the sixth minute through Sergei Kalinin. Anton Burdasov extended his productive streak to five games with an assist on that one. Vladimir Tkachyov extended the home lead midway through the opening stanza when he got clear of the defense and impressively beat Alexander Sudnitsin in the Nefetkhimik net.
The visitor made a better contest in the second period. Neftekhimik even had the puck in the net, but a bench challenge saw the play whistled down for interference on goalie Ilya Proskuryakov. Leontyev’s team had the edge in terms of shots and possession, but could not find a legitimate route past Traktor’s netminder. Then, in the 34th minute, a punishing counterattack saw Alexei Byvaltsev extend the home lead. Tkachyov potted his second of the game before the intermission and Neftekhimik’s promising stats were left in the dust by the reality of a 0-4 scoreline.
The visitor’s day was summed up by a 5-on-3 power play early in the third. Proskuryakov produced save after save to preserve his shut out and Traktor went on to record its first regulation-time win of the season.
Ex-players shoot down Sibir
Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 5 Sibir Novosibirsk 2 (1-1, 2-0, 2-1)
This wasn’t just a clash between two leading teams in the Eastern Conference. It was also an intriguing match-up between two coaches whose careers have often been intertwined. Once, Andrei Martemyanov and Nikolai Zavarukhin were colleagues on the staff at Avtomobilist. Later, though, Zavarukhin’s Sibir defeated the Motormen in a playoff series, costing Martemyanov his job. Later, Martemyanov masterminded a victory over Bill Peters’ Avtomobilist that saw Zavarukhin appointed in place of the Canadian. Now Martemyanov is behind the Sibir bench, with Zavarukhin still at the wheel for Avto. Moreover, four ex-Sibir players lined up for Yekaterinburg, with five former Motormen on the Sibir team.
Against that backdrop it was perhaps fitting that three of today’s goals were scored by players up against their former clubs. Vyacheslav Litovchenko was the first ‘old boy’ to find the net, tying the game for Sibir in the seventh minute after Brooks Macek’s early opener gave the home team a great start.
In the second period, Stephane Da Costa restored Avtomobilist’s lead before Oleg Li, who moved from Novosibirsk to Yekaterinburg in the summer, made it 3-1. That goal came on a power play after ex-Avtomobilist forward Taylor Beck sat out a hooking penalty.
Vyacheslav Osnovin gave Sibir some hope midway through the third, but Curtis Valk quickly restored a two-goal advantage for the home team. Then, in the closing moments, yet another former Sibir man made it 5-2. This time Danil Romantsev was on target, potting his second of the season to complete the scoring.
Jaskin shoots down former club
Dynamo Moscow 2 SKA St. Petersburg 3 (1-0, 0-2, 1-1)
SKA reeled off a seventh consecutive victory, defeating its closest rival in the Western Conference for the second time this season. To make the loss even more painful for the home team, the winning goal came from Dmitrij Jaskin, once a hero to Blue-and-White fans.
The 1-4 reverse in Petersburg was Dynamo’s only loss so far this season and the home team wanted to put the record straight here. The Muscovites had the better of the first period and went into the intermission leading by the only goal after Eric O’Dell extended his productive streak to four games.
After the intermission, SKA improved. However, for a long time it could not trouble Dynamo’s composed defense. All of that changed in the space of a minute when two of the visitors’ defensemen – Igor Ozhiganov and Stepan Falkovsky – scored twice on Konstantin Volkov. Prior to that double blast, Volkov had gone 92 minutes, 42 seconds without allowing a goal.
Dynamo hit back at the start of the third thanks to Dmitry Rashevsky. For a time it looked as though the home team would again go in front and Dmitry Nikolayev had to put in some hard work to keep SKA in the game. Against the run of play, Jaskin conjured an improbable winner with seven minutes to play, receiving a pass from Mikhail Vorobyov and, with his back to goal, whipping in a shot that surprised everyone and beat Volkov to win the game.
Foo’s double downs Sochi
Kunlun Red Star 3 HC Sochi 1 (1-0, 0-1, 2-0)
With just one win each in their opening six games, both of these teams were in danger of getting cut adrift at the foot of the Western Conference. Red Star was boosted by the return of defenseman Ryan Sproul, back for a fourth season in the Dragons’ lair. He slotted in for his first appearance in today’s game.
However, the early action was overshadowed by a big fight and Garet Hunt was in the thick of things again. He was fouled by Donat Stalnov, Ivan Lisin jumped in to remonstrate with the Sochi forward and Hunt picked himself up to fight Nikita Zorkin. All four players got major penalties, Stalnov picked up a further 10 minutes as the instigator. Hunt has attracted a major penalty in three of his past four games, underlining his reputation.
Once the dust settled, Red Star took the lead through Ethan Werek’s close-range finish. That was somewhat against the run of play, but when the home team took the initiative in the second period Sochi delivered a similar blow on the counter attack. Dmitry Zavgorodny tied it up late in the frame.
Parker Foo restored the home lead at the start of the third period, and Sochi was unable to find an answer. Foo got a second late on when his clearance bounced into an empty net; Sproul marked his return with an assist on that play as Red Star snapped a five-game skid.
Radulov’s OT winner
Dinamo Minsk 2 Ak Bars Kazan 3 OT (1-0, 1-2, 0-0, 0-1)
Officially, this was a Dinamo home game. However, due to a quirk of the schedule, it was relocated to Kazan where these teams met just four days earlier. On that occasion the visitor won 3-2 in overtime; today the notional ‘visitor’, Ak Bars, repeated that result.
Dinamo took an early lead through Nick Merkley. The Canadian snapped a four-game run without scoring when he struck during a passage of 4-on-4 play. And goals from teams without a full complement of players became a theme of this game.
The second period saw Ak Bars turn things around. Nothing so unusual in that, but Kazan did it with two short-handed goals. Artyom Galimov got the first in the 26th minute then, 10 minutes later, Kirill Petrov put Ak Bars in front. Kirill Semyonov assisted on both markers.
Late in the second period, Dinamo tied it up with a goal from Mark Barberio. The experienced Canadian got his first, brief taste of the KHL with Ak Bars last season. Today he got his first goal for his new club to take the game into overtime.
In the extras, Oleg Znarok pulled off a now-familiar move, withdrawing goalie Timur Bilyalov to play 4-on-3. The gamble worked: Danis Zaripov set up Alexander Radulov for the winning goal to lift Ak Bars to second in the Eastern Conference.
Torpedo edges OT verdict
Spartak Moscow 1 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 OT (1-0, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1)
Before the season, Igor Larionov said that his Torpedo team had little interest in grinding out low-scoring victories. Today, though, his players proved that they have what it takes to edge those tight verdicts when required.
A trip to Spartak turned into a hard-fought battle, decided in overtime by Kenny Agostino’s first goal of the season. After Alexei Kruchinin’s breakaway missed the target, the American forward exchanged passes with Mikhail Orlov and engineered an open net to shoot into and win the game.
Early in the evening, Spartak took the lead on its first power play of the night. Yu Sato, the KHL’s first Japanese player, was penalized and Joey Keane took advantage to score on the power play. Shane Prince’s screen denied Ivan Kulbakov a good look at the defenseman’s point shot as Keane recorded his first KHL goal.
However, another power play goal brought Torpedo level. Teenage forward Vasily Atanasov has been making waves this season and today he scored his third goal in six games, reacting first to the rebound after Patrik Rybar blocked a Kruchinin shot midway through the second period.
After two power play goals in the first 40 minutes, a steady stream of penalties in the third period suggested that a winning goal was likely before the end of regulation. However, both teams worked hard on the PK and neither side could win it until the extras, when Agostino made the difference for Torpedo.