Ak Bars edges thriller in Petersburg
SKA St. Petersburg 5 Ak Bars Kazan 6 (SO)

Ak Bars’ first period performance suggested that talk of problems in Kazan was laughably premature – but after sweeping into a 4-1 lead at SKA, Zinetula Bilyaletdinov saw his team fold in the closing stages to allow Oleg Znarok’s men to tie it up at 5-5.

The visitor rallied to claim a shoot-out victory: two saves from Emil Garipov denied Vadim Shipachyov and Ilya Kovalchuk before Fyodor Lukoyanov got the winner. But for two periods of Pavel Datysuk-inspired SKA dominance, this was a game that highlighted many of the weaknesses of Ak Bars in the opening weeks of the season.

Before the game there was much talk of the renewed rivalry between Bilyaletdinov and Znarok, the man who replaced him behind the bench of Team Russia. The two had memorably duelled in the 2010 Gagarin Cup final, when Bilyaletdinov’s Ak Bars got an almighty fright against Znarok’s unfancied MVD. And now they met as two of the most distinguished tacticians in the game but with Znarok seemingly in the ascendancy. SKA had made by far the brighter start to the season and since that 2010 Gagarin Cup win Bilyaletdinov had not won a major club trophy; Znarok, by contrast, had claimed two Gagarin Cups of his own in the interim.

Yet the early exchanges hinged on single incident early in the first period. SKA was leading 1-0 thanks to Shipachyov’s fourth-minute goal when Evgeny Ketov was ejected from the game for kneeing. During the subsequent major penalty, Ak Bars scored four goals in less than three-and-a-half minutes to build up a commanding lead.

Jiri Sekac tied the scores, then Anton Glinkin and Atte Ohtamaa combined twice in the space of 37 seconds to create goals for Vasily Tokranov and Andrei Popov. Vladimir Tkachyov added a fourth; starting goalie Igor Shestyorkin was pulled for Evgeny Ivannikov as SKA’s evening went alarmingly off course.

After a disastrous first period, SKA needed to start strongly in the second … but it was Maxim Lazarev who extended Ak Bars’ lead in the 23rd minute as the home team’s defensive frailties continued even at full strength. It wasn’t until the visitor ran into penalty trouble of its own that SKA managed to haul itself back into the game. Datsyuk fed Kovalchuk for a shot from the blue line that Sergei Shirokov tipped into the net to make it 2-5. Then Nikita Gusev converted the rebound from a Evgeny Dadonov shot to bring SKA back within two goals in time for the third period.

Yet another power play goal, this time when Datysuk touched in a Kovalchuk shot at the top of the crease, made it a one-goal game with five minutes to play and in a frenzied finale the Magic Man conjured up the equalizer on 59:55 with a sublime piece of play to ghost past two defensemen before flipping the puck over Emil Garipov’s shoulder. The goalie, though, held the edge in the shoot-out to help Ak Bars squeak a point from a game that looked like an easy win.

Holloway double helps CSKA to victory
CSKA Moscow 4 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 1

Bud Holloway got his first two goals since arriving in the KHL to help the Army Men to a comfortable home win over Neftekhimik.

CSKA was dominant from the off, allowing just three shots on its net in a one-sided first period, but still had to wait until almost midway through the game to take the lead through Artyom Blazhiyevsky’s power play marker. Then Holloway got to work, adding two further power play goals. First he smashed home a mighty one-timer from the blue line; next he found the empty net off Kirill Petrov’s pass with seconds to play in the middle stanza.

Denis Denisov added a fourth in the 47th minute – CSKA’s first even-strength goal of the night – while Viktor Fasth’s hopes of a shut-out were ended by Igor Polygalov’s 57th-minute consolation goal.

Around the league

Georgy Belousov maintained Lada’s bright start to the season with a shoot-out winner at Sevestal. The Motormen looked to be cruising after two goals from Belousov and a third from Alexander Bugamin made it 3-0 inside 27 minutes, but the road turned rocky when Dmitry Kagarlitsky (2) and Evgeny Mons tied the game. That led to an epic shoot-out of 14 attempts – one of them referred to the video official – before Lada took the win.

Pavel Medvedev scored two for the second time this season, but his Ugra team went down at home to Salavat Yulaev. Two goals in a minute midway through the final stanza saw Igor Grigorenko and Denis Kulyash put the visitor 3-2 up and that lead lasted until the hooter.

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