SKA stays unbeaten, Znarok defeats former club.
SKA recorded its eighth victory of the season with a shoot-out success over Severstal, but the league leader trailed for much of Sunday’s game. Oleg Znarok returned to Spartak and enjoyed a 4-1 victory with his new charges at Ak Bars. That helps Kazan keep pace with Eastern Conference leader Avtomobilist, which handed struggling Neftekhimik a 4-3 defeat. Barys moves into the top eight in the East with a 2-0 win over Sibir, while defending champion CSKA has a share of second place in the West following a 5-2 success at home to Sochi.
Barys moves into top eight
Getting home has clearly given Barys a lift. Winless in its opening road trip, the Kazakhs recorded a third win in four games to move into the top eight in the East. Moreover, today’s success game against an in-form Sibir team that had climbed as high as second in the conference before its trip to leader Avtomobilist on Friday.
At this stage of the season, though, things can change fast. Sibir lost in Yekaterinburg and today’s defeat means Andrei Martemyanov’s team drops to fifth in the standings, just two points ahead of Barys.
The home team responded to its difficult start by making some early moves in the transfer market. Canadian defenseman Nelson Nogier, who has 11 NHL games with Ottawa in a career largely spent in the AHL, made his debut. Goalie Julius Hudacek, announced last week, was on the bench as Nikita Boyarkin got the start.
Young Boyarkin has not had an easy start to the season. However, the presence of the experienced and popular Hudacek inspired him to his best performance of the season. He made 23 saves to record his first KHL shut-out and backstop the victory.
AAt the other end, the scoring was all in the first period. Jeremy Bracco put Barys ahead in the fourth minute, and Yegor Petukhov doubled the lead in the 17th. Sibir called a time out and tried to regroup, but the visitor’s subsequent improvement was never enough to challenge that lead.
Neftekhimik still seeks first win
Conference leader Avtomobilist won again, but bottom of the table Neftekhimik asked a few questions before falling to its seventh loss of the season.
This game was effectively settled in the first 14 minutes. Stephane Da Costa gave the Motormen an early lead before two Brooks Macek goals extended the lead to 3-0. Goalie Alexei Murygin was replaced after the third goal, but responsibility for the bad start was shared among most of the Neftekhimik players. All three markers were scored on the power play and it was that lack of discipline that cost the visitor in an otherwise even game. Late in the first period, though, a penalty for Avtomobilist helped Evgeny Mityakin reduce the deficit.
The middle frame followed a similar pattern early on. Neftekhimik was more than competitive but struggled to score. Then an Avtomobilist power play saw Sergei Shirokov extend the home lead. Only in the closing stages of the session did the visitor threaten a comeback. Mityakin got his second of the game and Pavel Poryadin got it back to 3-4.
With one goal in it, the third period was up for grabs. However, Avtomobilist managed to stifle the Neftekhimik offense and seal a win that consolidates its position in first place in the East.
Znarok enjoys winning return to Spartak
Oleg Znarok’s first return to Moscow to play a former club as Ak Bars head coach ended in a disappointing 0-2 loss in his first game of the season. Today, though, a visit to Spartak was far more successful.
The opening goal came in the 13th minute. Ak Bars got itself set up in the Spartak zone and that territorial advantage delivered. Vasily Tokranov’s wrist shot from the blue line was good enough to find Patrik Rybar’s net and open the scoring. A couple of minutes later, Radulov doubled the lead when he redirected Mark Yanchevsky’s shot into the net.
Spartak’s best chance of getting back into the game arrived late in the second period when Kirill Petrov followed Dmitry Voronkov into the penalty box. However, Ak Bars was solid on the PK, neutralizing more than a minute of 3-on-5 play to preserve its two-goal lead.
The visitor began the third period on a power play of its own, but was unable to add to its lead until the teams were back to equal strength. Semyonov got his first of the game with a touch on Maxim Chudinov’s point shot. Then, midway through the final stanza, Semyonov struck again to finish off a good move from Stanislav Galiyev behind the net.
For the Red-and-Whites there was little to cheer. A last-minute consolation goal from Dmitry Kugryshev had little bearing on the overall outcome.
Claesson’s first in KHL helps CSKA to victory
Things are still tight in the Western Conference standings. Defending champion CSKA came into this game in eighth place, but was just two points shy of Dynamo in second. An assured victory at home to rock bottom Sochi duly closed that gap.
The visitor, beaten by Kunlun Red Star on Friday, is already three points adrift at the foot of the table and is in danger of being cut off even at this early stage of the season. Andrei Nazarov’s team is already three wins behind the team in eighth place and has completed an extra game.
CSKA took the lead here through Takhir Mingachyov’s goal late in the first period. The home team took full control of the action in the middle frame, when Vitaly Abramov and Nikita Nesterov scored within a couple of minutes of one another to open a 3-0 lead. For Sochi, which had twice been shut out this season and which scored six of its 10 goals in a single game against Barys, that looked like a gap too big to bridge.
Initially, things got worse for the visitor. At the start of the third frame, CSKA scored twice in 60 seconds, with Fredrik Claesson potting his first in the KHL before Maxim Sorkin got his second of the season. However, there was some consolation for Sochi in the closing stages. Goals from Dmitry Zavgorodny and Brandon Gormley at least made the final score somewhat respectable.
Kamalov saves SKA in Severstal battle
SKA’s unbeaten start to the season faced its toughest test yet when Severstal came to visit. When the teams met on Monday, SKA eased to a 4-1 victory in Cherepovets, but Andrei Razin’s team clearly learned from that experience and took the opposition all the way to overtime here.
The Steelmen got off to a flying start, with Nikolai Timashov opening the scoring after three minutes. He fired in a shot from wide on the left-hand boards to give Severstal the lead. A week earlier, Timashov’s team had also scored first but on that occasion they found SKA too much to deal with at the other end. Today was different.
The home team piled on the pressure – in the first period, SKA outshot Severstal 11-4 and by the end of the second the advantage was 20-9. However, neither starting goalie Vladislav Podyapolsky nor understudy Dmitry Shugayev, who stood in for a few first-period minutes, could be beaten. Indeed, as the second period drew on there were signs of frustration creeping into SKA’s play: penalties on forward Damir Zhafyarov and Dmitrij Jaskin suggested some disquiet in the home ranks.
When the tying goal arrived in the 49th minute, it was hard not to sympathize with Severstal. All that hard defensive work was undone by a sloppy clearance from the corner, followed by a cruel deflection. Nikita Kamalov was the beneficiary, grabbing the puck as the visitor sought to clear its lines then advancing beyond the goal line. The SKA defenseman fired the puck back towards the slot, only for it to bounce off Podyapolsky’s back and into the net.
Overtime could not separate the teams, and the shoot-out went to sudden death before Marat Khairullin grabbed the win for SKA. That’s eight-in-a-row from the start of the season for Roman Rotenberg’s team, but this was a closer battle than most.