Нижний Новгород (17:00)
Riga entered the game having lost six straight although they came close to snapping Severstal’s point-streak in their final home game just days ago. Still looking to step out of the last place of Western conference standings they would face off against their former captain - Sandis Ozolins who is serving as an assistant coach for 9th place Torpedo. The home team’s perfomance has been like American hills - up and down, up and down. Entering this contest Torpedo had lost against the Metallurg team. Both sides did meet earlier this season when with a score of 2:1 Dinamo was the better side.
Krikunov’s side is not only battling themselves, their opponents but also injuries - a long list of players stayed behind in Riga but there was also some good news, Nikolajs Jelisejevs traveled with the team, yet didn’t dress for the game against Torpedo.
Dinamo showed determination despite the hurdles and in the end, came up big to defeat Torpedo for the second time this season - this time in the shootout with a score of 4:3 thus snapping their six-game losing streak.
‘’We spent the whole day yesterday in the airport, today we arrived practically right before we had to step on the ice. We had enough time to get dressed and get out there. I want to say that the players did great in such a hard situation. They didn’t save themselves, they fought and battled till the very end. That’s probably why we could score in the shootout.’’ coach Krikunov was upbeat and happy with the win when addressing media. ‘’I’m thankful to everyone for the outcome. Prior to the game we laughed, made some jokes that we didn’t have to practice and that’s why we had more strength to play past regulation.’’
Dinamo Riga arrived at the arena just in time to prepare for the match - straight off the flight and on the ice. If the legs were heavy it certainly didn’t show as they began the game playing aggressive hockey. Initially, Torpedo did control the puck more but the visitors sat on their back to not allow anything dangerous to happen by their net.
Dinamo gifted their opponent a perfect chance to score while failing to clear the zone but the fire was put out by the players themselves without Mattsson having to get involved. Closing in on the mid-point of the period Dinamo opened up the scoring - a quick pass from Poirier to Shinkaruk to the front of the net and the score became 1:0 for the Latvian side.
Chances to double the lead were given as Andy Miele received two minutes for hooking sending the league’s fifth-best penalty kill to work. That worked well allowing Torpedo to remain within a shot of a tie as the opponents barely could get anything dangerous to happen - the alone chance for Poirier was shutdown.
Andy Miele assured that he paid back for his penalty to tie the game with a one-timer, however, the celebrations were cut short as Dinamo instantly responded with another goal. Miele once again was involved in the goal - the puck juggled off of his legs and landed right on Filips Buncis cannon who without thinking blasted it past Tikhomirov for his first career KHL goal to assure his team would be up 2:1 after the first period.
Torpedo looked determined early on forcing Dinamo to play defensively and having Johan Mattsson stop a few pucks on occasion. The game plan seemed to be to hold on to the puck for as long as possible to prevent Riga from being allowed to make timely line changes. Andrei Belevich had a superb chance to score while left all alone in front of the net but Riga’s big Swede cleared the puck away.
The first real chance for Dinamo came seven minutes in - the puck slowly slid towards the Torpedo’s net and Svanenbergs caught up to it, tried to beat the goalie one-on-one but the netminder came on top in that battle to assure his team would remain down by just a single goal. The spark seemed enough to bring them some confidence to later draw a penalty.
In an unfortunate turn of events - Kristaps Zile was robbed of the puck and Torpedo went to attack while shorthanded which led to a 2:2 tie. Ziyat Paigin drew three players on him just to pass to Chekhovich who was all alone on the opposite side of the offensive zone waiting and deeked the puck into the close corner.
A clear opportunity by Cerveny was wasted when he couldn’t put the puck into an empty side of the net but his linemate Jere Karjalainen assured that the puck would end up going in - a strong slap-shot by the Finn gave Riga another lead. Poirier appeared to have scored just seconds after but the goal didn’t count as his teammate - Alisauskas was sent to the penalty box to round out the match after forty.
Torpedo began the third-period having switch goalies - Alexei Muryigin stepped in to change something in the match. The carry-over penalty was still a factor from the get-go but Riga did well to stay unharmed in the situation.Dinamo Riga and their young defenseman Ozols played quality hockey - so much so that at one point Chekhovich had to trip up the youngster sending Riga up by a man for the fourth time in the game, not long after Mikheyev handed the opponent a 5-on-3 power-play chance. Most of the time was wasted passing the puck around without anything dangerous happening.
Torpedo’s first line was the most dangerous when attacking and they wore down the opponents for the second line to come on the ice, enter the zone, and level the game. Veryayev bumped the puck towards Chekhovich who was skating up the ice and even though he was surrounded by two bodies - he got the shot off and managed to score.
The health of referee lungs was checked often in the third as many whistles followed making the pace of the game slow down massively. This then meant that neither team could score the go-ahead goal to put a point each into their pockets after regulation as the scoreboard showed a 3:3 tie.
The Nizhny-Novgorod side began aggressively and went on to look for that game-winning goal. Riga took over once Kristaps Zile had an amazing opportunity going coast-to-coast but he was stopped point-blank. Emile Poirier followed up with a short-range breakaway when Lauris Darzins sent him towards the net but another save was made by Murygin. They kept controlling the game for the remainder of extra time - Mattsson really had to get involved once when he faced a breakaway. Neither team could score meaning that for the second time in two games - Dinamo would go to a shootout.
In the shootout, Riga managed to take a comfortable 2:0 lead, yet the opponent did come back to tie the score after the first five shots. Deciding the sixth attempt was successful for Lauris Darzins while Johan Mattsson sent away the last shot giving Riga a well-deserved victory - 4:3 the final score.
‘’In my opinion, we started off well, we stuck to our game plan and kept calm while also defending our net-front and that gave results. They came out in the second very strong and made us sweat a little defensively and we were unlucky to allow goals against and we also got unlucky that Poirier’s goal didn’t count. We kept our minds calm in the third and broke the karma in OT and shootout. I think I lost some weight after my goal - I feel amazing. It took a while but I’m happy that we also won. Now we just keep going forward.’’ Filips Buncis commented on the game and his maiden KHL goal.