Day 4 of the Nizhny Novgorod Governor’s Cup began with an intriguing afternoon match-up between one of the League's traditional title contenders, Salavat Yulaev, and one of the pack of outsiders, Spartak, followed by an evening game between the hosts, Torpedo, and the departing Metallurg Novokuznetsk, now preparing for a life in the VHL.
Salavat Yulaev Ufa vs. Spartak Moscow: 3-1 (1-0, 1-0, 1-1)
Both these teams were smarting from defeats on the previous day and so had plenty to prove. The men from the Russian capital had fought back valiantly from 0-2 down against Avtomobilist and then dominated the resulting overtime, only to see their efforts wiped out in the shootout, while the men from the Bashkortistan capital had lost the Green Derby 3-4 against fierce rivals Ak Bars.
The most obvious casualties from Thursday's failures were the goaltenders, both of whom were replaced for Friday's game: Salavat Yulaev brought in Andrei Kareyev while the Red-and-Whites elected for Nikita Bespalov.
As a result, the game turned out to be something of a rarity – a contest which went the way one would have expected. Both teams were more consistent and more disciplined, and Ufa's strength in depth proved decisive. A goal in each period – one from Evgeny Korotkov and two from Enver Lisin - went unanswered until Ryan Stoa's late powerplay goal gave Spartak fans something to cheer.
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod vs. Metallurg Novokuznetsk: 4-0 (0-0, 2-0, 2-0)
The evening game also went true to form. The hosts have had an up-and-down tournament, going down to Salavat Yulaev and then bouncing back up to conquer Ak Bars, whereas Novokuznetsk has understandably struggled following the exodus of players to KHL clubs.
The Nizhny Novgorod staff added plenty of youth and inexperience into the roster, but the team was still too strong for the Blacksmiths, and after a close opening period the remainder of the game was one-way traffic.
Gennady Stolyarov and Mikhail Smolin scored in the second period, and after the interval, further strikes from defenseman Pavel Medvedev and ex-Dynamo Moscow forward Yegor Dugin, grabbing his first goal in a Torpedo jersey, removed any doubt about the outcome.
Lokomotiv vs. Amur: 5-2 (2-2, 0-0, 0-0, 3-0)
This pair met two days previously, when the Yaroslavl side claimed a 3-1 win, but this rematch was not a mere replay. While the Yaroslavl squad differed little, with seven players on national team duty in Sochi, the Amur team welcomed the return of its first offensive line - Marek Kvapil, Alexander Frolov and Tomas Zohorna - plus Juha Metsola in goal.
The teams wasted no time in going on the offensive, sharing four goals in the opening period. Pavel Dedunov put the visitors in front but Denis Mosalyov replied. Alexander Frolov restored his new team's advantage, but Yegor Fateyev hit back for the hosts. The next two periods belonged to the goalies, and so we were treated to an unusual overtime. The teams had agreed they would play out the added fine minutes regardless of whether ether team scored, and as a result we were treated to three Lokomotiv goals, from Daniil Apalkov, Vladislav Kartayev, and Mosalyov's second of the night.
Pelicans vs. Severstal: 4-3 (1-1, 3-0, 0-2)
The bad news for Severstal boss Alexander Gulyavtsev is that his team came off second best in an entertaining game in Finland. The good news is that his inquest need only concentrate on the second period, when the Finns did the damage with three unanswered goals.