Close battle of Russian rivals

Moscow 4, St. Petersburg 3 (OT-SO) – It is looking like it will be a season-long, neck-and-neck struggle for the Kharlamov Division title. After 23 games, three teams are dead even at 26 points on top of the division. On Thursday, two of those teams went at it in Russia. St. Petersburg and Moscow are both teams that come at you. The Red Stars are fourth in the league in shots per game at 32.91, and Spartak is right behind them at 32.74.  The difference between them in today’s game in St. Petersburg was a shot taken in a shootout. Jaroslav Halak made 36 saves in regulation and overtime and then stopped Valterri Filppula and Jarome Iginla in the shootout to give Moscow the win. Spartak had a 3-0 lead at one point after Rich Peverley, Duncan Keith and Anze Kopitar scored, but St. Petersburg battled back with a powerplay goal in each period. Filppula, Erik Cole and Kevin Bieksa all scored for Petrograd. The two teams are now tied with Gothenburg at the top of the Kharlamov Division.

Prague 4, London 3  (OT) – Thomas Vanek ended the game with an overtime tally. It was only his 5th of the season. A big time goal scorer with Buffalo in the NHL, Vanek hasn’t been a sharpshooter in his native Europe. Last season with Oslo, he scored 17 goals in 74 games and his lifetime shooting percentage in the EURO is 9.2.  Two his teammates –  Dmitri Kulikov and Zach Parise – had two assists each against London to lead their team. Defenseman Eric Brewer played a strong game with 4 blocked shots and 3 hits. London was led by Taylor Hall (1 goal and 1 assist) and Jake Gardiner (4 blocked shots and 2 hits).

Oslo 3, Helsinki 2 – Cody McCormick has to be scratching his head tonight. He scored the opening goal of the game in Helsinki and then the game-winner and was told after the game he was going back down to the farm club in Bergen, on the western coast of Norway. McCormick, who earns only $500,000, has 4 goals, 4 assists and is a plus 5 with 31 hits as a fourth-liner for the Outlaws. But here are the numbers that hurt the team: 18 penalty minutes, 14 giveaways and just one lonely takeaway. Oslo claimed 6-6 David Steckel off waivers from St. Petersburg and inserted him into the fourth-line center spot. Steckel has seen a lot of Europe since he’s been in the EURO League. Drafted by Bratislava, he was quickly traded to Edinburgh for a draft pick that ended up being David Moss. Late in the season, Edinburgh sent him to St. Petersburg, along with a third round draft pick (which was used to select Jamie Olesiak) for Kyle Wellwood. Against Helsinki, Oslo had to fend off two 5-minute majors in the last 14 minutes. In between them, McCormick scored to break a 2-2 tie. Helsinki, meanwhile, is dealing with trade rumors that involve a star player. Martin St. Louis, who had 2 assists Thursday, had this to say about hearing his name mentioned in trade rumors: “I’ve heard the rumours, but I haven’t heard that I’m going anywhere. I enjoy it here in Helsinki, I have no desire to leave, but if they trade me, they trade me,” the veteran right winger said. “All I can do is play hard and leave the speculation to you guys (media).” St. Louis, considered a contender for the league’s Sportsmanship trophy, is currently third on the Jokerit in scoring with 18 points in 22 games. Last season, he averaged just over a point per game with 83 in 82 games. His 45 goals tied him with Jason Spezza of Bern in that category. Only Madrid’s Joe Pavelski (46 goals), Stockholm’s Eric Staal (50) and Frankfurt’s Steven Stamkos (55) scored more.

Milan 4, Frankfurt 2 – The Guerrerio stopped all 8 of Frankfurt’s powerplays and scored a shorthanded goal. After a 1-1 first period, Dimitrios Kalyvas (9th of the season) and Matt Moulson (11th) scored and Ryan Callahan scored his 5th goal in the third period while his team was shorthanded. Dustin Byfuglien of Milan was credited with 4 blocked shots and 4 hits. Frankfurt was led by Drew Doughty, who scored a goal and dished out 4 hits.

Copenhagen 3, Munich 2 – The score was close even though the shot total wasn’t. Copenhagen got 42 shots on Jonathan Quick, while Munich managed 23 on Roberto Luongo. Joe Thornton of Munich scored his 5th of the year to give his team a 1-0 lead after a period, but Derek Roy tied it with the only goal of the second period. The Tridents pulled away in the third period as Brent Sutter and Ville Peltonen scored. Patrik Elias added a late goal, his 13th, but Luongo and Copenhagen fended off the Fox over the final 55 seconds.

Minsk 2, Geneva 1 – Nick Leddy’s goal in the third period decided a defensive struggle in Belarus. The Hussars outshot the visiting Generals 20-18 and both teams’ penalty killers were perfect during a total of 13 powerplays. Nick Backstrom scored first for Minsk, his 5th of the season, before David Desharnais’ 8th tied the game 5 minutes later. Minsk players blocked only 3 shots, while Geneva players  blocked 18 shots – the same number as goalie Kari Lehtonen did. Michael DelZotto led all players with 4 blocks.

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