Нижний Новгород (17:00)
Ak Bars handed SKA its first defeat in 10 games as Zinetula Bilyaletdinov won his coaching duel with the man who replaced him behind the bench for team Russia. It was the second time this season Ak Bars had picked up a shoot-out win over SKA.
Oleg Znarok’s men have been in imperious form in the run-up to this game, winning nine games on the spin and losing just once in 24 outings prior to the trip to Kazan. For Ak Bars, chasing Metallurg Magnitogorsk for top spot in the Eastern Conference, recent form had been more patchy, alternating wins and losses in recent games.
SKA was the first to show, with Evgeny Dadonov opening the scoring in the third minute. Such a quick start evoked memories of 2015 and the Army Men’s rampant first-period performance to lift the Gagarin Cup here, but this time Ak Bars rallied immediately. Two goals in two minutes for Fyodor Malykhin and Mikhail Glukhov put the home team in front.
That lead was also short-lived as Vadim Shipachyov scored twice either side of the first intermission. The Russian international star maintained his hot streak, climbing to 49 points for the season after extending his productive to six games worth 6+5 points.
But it wasn’t enough to secure victory. SKA held its lead until deep into the third period, but Jiri Sekac tied it up in the 54th minute. The Czech forward received an unexpected gift – late for Christmas, or early for New Year, depending on whether you celebrate Russian or European style – was Artyom Zub’s pass to Dadonov went astray and presented a one-on-one rendezvous with Mikko Koskinen.
Into the shoot-out, and it turned into a battle between Malykhin and Nikita Gusev. The SKA man scored with the first attempt; Malykhin responded in kind right away. Then four failures: Datsyuk and Kovalchuk for SKA, Tkachyov and Glinkin for Ak Bars. The opening pair returned, Malykhin scored again and the pressure was on Gusev. Emil Garipov made the save, and Ak Bars claimed the victory.
Tim Sestito’s goal seconds before the end of overtime saw Dinamo Riga avenge yesterday’s 3-0 defeat in Finland and snatch victory over Jokerit.
Initially the home team picked up where it left off, with Pekka Jormakka opening the scoring on a third-minute power play, but after failing to solve Ryan Zapolski 24 hours earler, Maris Bicevskis came up with the answers. The Latvian scored two goals in three minutes to turn the game upside down.
Jokerit responded with a Jesse Joensuu goal midway through the game but neither team could find a winner in regulation. In overtime, the home team killed a penalty, but had no answer in the closing seconds when Sestito got the winner on the rebound from a Ralfs Freiburgs shot against the boards.
A five-goal lead should be more or less impregnable, but Salavat Yulaev staged a third-period revival from 1-6 to give Lada a fright in this game.
The first 42 minutes were almost perfect for the home team. Two goals from Vasily Streltsov, and further markers from Denis Zernov, Viktor Komarov, Nikita Filatov and Maxim Rybin put Lada in complete control, leading 6-1 at 41:30. A short-handed goal from Igor Grigorenko was the only blot for the Motormen.
But Salavat refused to give up, and scored three goals in four minutes through Dmitry Maltsev, Enver Lisin and Dmitry Makarov. Suddenly it was back to 6-4, and with 12 minutes to play, Lada had some work to do to secure its win. Edgars Masalskis withstood a late storm around his net as the home team held on to take the win.
Neftekhimik snapped a four-game losing streak and moved to within three points of a playoff spot after edging Severstal.
The home team made a great start as Dmitry Ogurtsov and Igor Bortnikov set up a 2-0 lead, but goals either side of the first intermission saw Maxim Trunyov and Daniil Vovchenko tie the game for Severstal.
Richard Gynge’s 16th of the season kept Neftekhimik in front at the second intermission but it needed a second goal of the game from Ogurtsov to win it after Yury Trubachyov levelled for the Steelmen.