Following a 5 game winning streak that vaulted them to the top of the KHL standings, HC LEV Praha have stumbled as of late, losing two of their last three games, and find themselves slowly losing their grip atop the Western Conference standings. This was highlighted last night, during a lackluster road appearance against Evgeni Malkin’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk in which the Lions were completely handed their manes in a 6-1 loss.
It was a homecoming for the reigning NHL MVP Malkin, who played his first match of the year in front of a hometown crowd. Geno got off to a strong start against the Lions, setting up the opening goal of the game by firing a pass to his captain Denis Platonov. Platonov make a nifty move at the blueline to split the Prague defenders and beat Tomáš Pöpperle low blocker side for his third goal of the year.
Minutes later, Prague would respond to tie the game, but that was all the offensive roar they had in this one. The home side would go on to score five unanswered goals in the second period. Yes, you read that correctly, five.
With Tomáš Ruchunek in the box with a high-sticking double minor, Metallurg went to work. They scored twice on the double minor and, to add insult to injury, potted a third goal moments later. In a span of less than two minutes, 1:51 to be exact, Malkin’s squad scored three goals – including two on the powerplay – to take a 4-1 lead.
That was the story of the night: Metallurg were the surgeons and the powerplay was their operating table. They would score two more goals with the man advantage before the period was over, going 4-4 on the powerplay in the middle frame.
There was no bite from the Lions on this night, and for a team that had found success from a defensive-minded game all year, they allowed 6 goals on 39 shots – both season-highs – and lost their reign as the team with the fewest goals against in the league.
Malkin’s homecoming was a success, as he racked up three points, including his first goal of the year on the 6th Metallurg score. He’s now picked up six points in his last two games.
The good news for Lions fans is that the Prague squad hasn’t lost two in a row all year. They will be in tough though, as Saturday afternoon they head into Chelyabinsk to take on the red-hot Traktor – winners of three straight.