There were contrasting fortunes for two of the KHL’s biggest clubs in Tatarstan. SKA suffered an unexpected 2-1 loss at Neftekhimik, seeing the host rise from the foot of the Eastern Conference in the process. Ak Bars, meanwhile, continued its impressive form at the top of the table with an overtime win over Jokerit to make it eight wins from nine. Vityaz had a solid 3-1 success against Traktor, Torpedo smashed six past Dinamo Minsk and Lokomotiv edged Admiral thanks to a shoot-out goal from Stephane Da Costa.

Amur edges closer to the playoff race

Amur Khabarovsk 1 Severstal Cherepovets 0 (0-0, 1-0, 0-0)

Amur moved to ninth in the Eastern Conference after edging past Severstal by a single goal. Both teams are steadily improving following a slow start to the season and Amur today recorded its third win in a row.

The first period was played at a good tempo and both teams had their chances. The closest we came to a goal was an incident in the 15th minute when Makar Khabarov’s shot was deflected into the Amur net by Yury Trubachyov. However, the goal was whistled off for a high stick and the game remained goalless at the first intermission.

The second session brought the winning goal. Michal Jordan was the scorer, firing home from the blue line off a Hynek Zohorna feed. After that, the focus fell on Evgeny Alikin, who continues to impress in the Amur net. He kept Severstal at bay and the home team could even afford to spurn a late chance when Alexander Gorshkov dinged a penalty shot against the bar in the 59th minute.

Da Costa ends Admiral’s run of form

Admiral Vladivostok 3 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 4 SO (1-0, 2-2, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1)

Admiral’s five-game winning streak came to an end thanks to Stephane Da Costa’s shoot-out winner for Lokomotiv.

The early stages were hampered by a string of penalties, but the home team went in front in the 13th minute when Kirill Voronin claimed his first goal of the season. The play required two video reviews: one to confirm the puck had crossed the line and a second, on a coach’s challenge, to rule out goalie interference.

The game exploded at the start of the second period. Vladimir Butuzov put Admiral 2-0 in front, only for Loko to respond with two goals in 67 seconds from Da Costa and Daniil Apalkov. The Sailors recovered from that shock to regain the lead through a power play goal from Adam Almqvist. The Swede extended his productive streak to five games, but the Railwaymen weren’t done. Grigory Denisenko tied it up in the third and Da Costa finally separated the teams in the shoot-out.

Padakin, White punish SKA’s lapses

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 2 SKA St. Petersburg 1 (0-0, 2-0, 0-1)

There was a big shock in Nizhnekamsk, where struggling Neftekhimik climbed off the foot of the Eastern Conference table with a victory over SKA. Twice capitalizing on defensive errors, the host managed to get in front in the second period and withstood intense pressure to take the verdict. Home goalie Alexander Sharychenkov played a big part in the win: he stopped 31 shots in a game where Neftekhimik was limited to just eight attempts on target in the last 40 minutes.

However, this was not just a case of an outsider withstanding a siege. Neftekhimik came out for the first period with a point to prove. The team went into the game rooted to the foot of the table but produced a display of attacking intent that belied its lowly position. Outshooting SKA 18-6 and engineering 32 attempts against 10, Vyacheslav Butsayev’s men did everything to give their fans something to get behind.

The only thing missing was an opening goal and it looked like that would be punished as SKA got two power play chances early in the second period. Sergei Plotnikov was left cursing his luck after seeing a shot hit both posts and bounce to safety. But hockey can be a fickle game: after dominating the first frame without scoring, Neftekhimik spent just 58 seconds on the attack in the second and collected two goals from four shots. Pavel Padakin got the opening in the 37th minute, stripping the puck from a SKA defenseman behind the net and firing home on the wraparound. Then, three minutes later, Matt White doubled the lead when he shot over Alexei Melnichuk’s shoulder on a breakaway raid as the visitor was punished for another error.

Anton Burdasov got SKA on the scoreboard at last with a power play goal in the 48th minute but Neftekhimik held firm to take the win and move up the league table.

Torpedo overpowers Minsk

Dinamo Minsk 0 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 6 (0-3, 0-1, 0-2)

Dinamo slipped to a fifth successive loss after suffering a nightmare first period against Torpedo. The visitor, which had lost its previous two games, got the perfect boost when it fired in three unanswered goals in that opening frame.

The pattern of play was fairly even in the early stages, but Torpedo’s finishing made the difference. Barely a minute separated goals from Stanislav Bocharov and Jordan Schroeder and after that the visitor began to take control of the game. A penalty on Oleg Yevenko gave Damir Zhafyarov the chance to make it three and early in the second session Sergei Goncharuk added a fourth.

Former Minsk forward Paul Szczechura got an assist on Goncharuk’s goal and went on to score another for himself midway through the third before Kirill Urakov completed the rout in the closing stages.

Petrov lifts Ak Bars to win over Jokerit

Ak Bars Kazan 4 Jokerit Helsinki 3 OT (2-0, 1-2, 0-1, 1-0)

Jokerit’s six-game winning streak came to an end in Kazan where the Eastern Conference leader took the verdict after an entertaining game. It was an evening of big individual performances – Kirill Petrov and Brian O’Neill both finished with two goals – and high-octane action as the teams lived up to their billing as the top game of the day.

The first period belonged absolutely to the home team. Justin Azevedo gave Ak Bars an early lead and Petrov doubled the advantage. The host dominated the play, leaving Jokerit with few chances to attack and giving the Finns a headache before the first intermission.

But Lauri Marjamaki’s team got just the boost it needed at the start of the second. Petrov tripped O’Neill and the American emphatically converted the resulting penalty shot. The goal came with Jokerit on the PK; goalie Antti Niemi, introduced after 20 minutes in place of Janis Kalnins, had taken a tripping call of his own but was reprieved by O’Neill’s efforts. It wasn’t long before Peter Regin had the game tied at 2-2 and Ak Bars was under pressure.

Petrov’s roller-coaster evening continued and took an upward turn late in the second frame when he broke down the right and looked to find Azevedo at the back door. His pass deceived everyone and slipped into the net to restore the home lead, but O’Neill was on hand to tie it up all over again 32 seconds into the third.

That was the end of the scoring until overtime, where Petrov emerged as the difference maker. His shot was beaten away by Niemi, but the puck dropped for Mikhail Fisenko to score the deciding goal. Ak Bars now has eight wins in its last nine games, with only CSKA getting the better of Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team in that run.

Vityaz despatches Traktor

Vityaz Moscow Region 3 Traktor Chelyabinsk 1 (1-0, 2-0, 0-1)

Vityaz saw its winning streak fade into a sequence of alternating victories and defeats – but tonight’s game against Traktor was more like the assured hockey we’ve seen from this season’s surprise package.

Photo: 17.10.19. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Vityaz (Moscow Region) - Traktor (Chelyabinsk)

Robust in defense, with Ilya Ezhov making 29 saves and the team blocking 17 shots, Vityaz was rarely troubled by a Traktor team in danger of being overhauled by a bunch of playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference. Pekka Jormakka opened the scoring with a power play goal in the seventh minute and the home PK smothered the visiting offense on its two penalty chances to secure a 1-0 advantage at the first break.

Early in the second, Pavel Chernov doubled the lead when he intercepted the puck in center ice and advanced to shoot over Ivan Fedotov’s glove. Traktor continued to get plenty of time in the home zone but found it difficult to get shots on Ezhov’s net, while Vityaz continued to take its chances at the other end. Midway through the game, Alexei Makeyev beat Fedotov in a manner reminiscent of Chernov’s shot to open a 3-0 lead that would prove ample to secure the points. A late consolation effort from Yegor Fateyev cost Ezhov a well-deserved shut-out but could not change the outcome of the game.

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