Resurgent Metallurg wins five in a row
Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1:3 Metallurg Magnitogorsk (0-1, 1-0, 0-2)
Metallurg recorded a fifth straight win, banishing memories of its struggles in November and moving to third in the Eastern Conference. The Steelmen’s rise started with a victory over a relatively modest Neftekhimik, but now includes the scalps of Dynamo, SKA and Salavat Yulaev — results that suggest the team may have turned a corner.
Metallurg’s opponent, meanwhile, was stuttering a little. However, Ufa was boosted by the return of goalie Juha Metsola, making his 300th KHL appearance after missing out since Nov. 22. The Finn did not have the happiest of returns, though: inside five minutes he was beaten when Sergei Plotnikov put away the rebound from an Artyom Minulin shot. At the other end, Salavat Yulaev failed to score for the fourth consecutive period on home ice, following Saturday’s 0-3 loss against Dynamo.
Teemu Hartikainen put that right early in the second, albeit with some good fortune. Philip Larsen’s one-timer from the blue line was going wide, but it hit the Finnish forward and flashed past Vasily Koshechkin in the Metallurg net. That power play goal came moments after Semyon Koshelev rattled the home crossbar; Magnitka went on to have the better of the second period but was unable to restore its lead.
The game-breaker came midway through the third when Grigory Panin was sent to the box. Metallurg was not about to pass up a second powerplay chance in the final stanza and Dennis Rasmussen duly obliged, starting and finishing the move that led to the winning goal. Ufa still had chances, with two power plays for the home team in the final minutes keeping hopes alive until the end. But when a short-handed Metallurg scored into the empty net — Plotnikov getting his second of the game — it was all over.