Avtomobilist returned to action with a bang after the Motormen got a clean bill of health following the recent COVID outbreak on the team. Nikolai Zavarukhin’s team dropped to 10th in the Eastern Conference during that period of inactivity, and despite having three games in hand on eight-placed Barys and five on Neftekhimik in seventh, there’s a lot of work to do to get into the playoff picture.
That work started today against Severstal, and the first assignment was completed successfully. Avtomobilist snapped its six-game losing streak, serving notice that it was still an active player in the battle for the top eight. The home team made a strong start to the game, opening the scoring in the ninth minute through Stanislav Bocharov and doubling that lead before the intermission thanks to Shane Prince.
Severstal, looking to build on a three-game winning streak, came out hard in the second period. Daniil Vovchenko potted a spectacular lacrosse goal to reduce the deficit and post an early contender for goal of the year. Then, just before the midway point Ivan Yemets tied the scores. However, the home imports rallied to restore that two-goal lead before the second break. First, Prince got his second of the game, then he released Brooks Macek for a one-on-one with goalie Dmitry Shugayev. Macek converted the chance, Severstal challenged the play but the video found no evidence of offside and the visitor was left to kill a penalty. Shugayev made way for Vladislav Podyapolsky, but the understudy goalie could do nothing to stop Bocharov getting his second of the game in the third period.
SKA moved four points clear at the top of the Western Conference thanks to its second victory over Sochi this season.
The home team had the better of the first period and got its reward with the opening goal in the 16th minute. SKA won an attacking face-off and after Maxim Tretyak blocked Alexander Volkov’s shot, Marat Khusnutdinov followed up to convert the rebound.
Tretiak pulled off a big save at the start of the second period, robbing Mat Robinson of a power play goal. After that, the visiting defense began to tighten up its play: SKA was limited to seven shots on goal in the middle session, with Sochi blocking 10 efforts.
That stalwart defensive effort kept the visitor alive in this game, and not even a 5-on-3 power play helped SKA to extend its lead. Nikita Zorkin — one of several former SKA players on the Sochi team — did superbly to prevent Andrei Kuzmenko from firing into an unguarded net, and subsequently Tretyak kept the home offense at arm’s length until the teams were back at full strength.
However, the Leopards were unable to generate the necessary offense to find a way back into the game there was always a sense that SKA would successfully finish the job. Kirill Marchenko almost settled it with a shot against the piping before Mikhail Vorobyov added a second goal in the 56th minute.
Earlier in the season, Sochi failed to score in its home game against SKA. Today the visitor at least escaped a second blank thanks when Kuzmenko’s error led to a late consolation goal for Dmitry Kolgotin’s. Briefly, the visitor threatened to drag the issue into overtime, but the Army Men responded with a disciplined finish to seal a 2-1 victory.