A three-point night from Erik Christensen and powerplay goals by both Juraj Mikuš and (the other) Juraj Mikúš, gave HC LEV Praha the victory over Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, ending their two game losing skid.
In a must-win situation on a Monday afternoon, Prague was finally victorious. A third consecutive loss would’ve carried with it the title of tailspin and the club would’ve been forced to spend the entire week dwelling upon a winless road trip. Hapless Avtomobilist, owners of the second worst record in the KHL, were just what the doctor ordered.
Things didn’t start out well for Prague, as they began the game by giving up the first goal. However, minutes later a powerplay marker by Juraj Mikúš evened the score.
Though the lead wouldn’t last long. After getting hauled down by Ondřej Němec on a breakway, young Eduard Gimatov was awarded a penalty shot. Slowly skating down the left side of the ice, the 18 year-old forward fired a shot over the glove of Tomáš Pöpperle to score the first professional goal of his career and give his team a 2-1 lead heading into the intermission.
There may have been some concern among Lion fans, as their squad had been shut out in the second and third periods the previous two matches. But, all doubts were erased less than a minute into the second period, as Jakob Voráček found a streaking Erik Christensen, who fought off a defender to get a one-timer away and through the pads of Evgeny Lobanov to tie the game.
Before the period was over, Prague would strike again. Tomáš Surový picked up a juicy rebound and fired a shot through traffic that beat the Avtomobilist keeper. The goal gave the Lions a 3-2 lead after two periods. History was on their side, as Prague had yet to lose a game when leading after forty minutes, going 3-0 in the process.
The Lions would continue to build momentum on the powerplay, with a goal from the other Juraj Mikuš on the roster. Christensen fed the younger Mikuš with a pass from behind the net. Although he was tied up by a defender on the play, the Prague defenceman managed to get a backhander off that eluded Lobanov.
It was the first third-period goal for the Lions in 5 games, effectively getting one monkey off their back. However, they still had fifteen minutes of hockey to play before they could escape with the win and brush off that second, larger, stigma.
Avtomobilist didn’t go down without a fight. With Prague shorthanded two men for the third time in the hockey match, the home team cut the deficit to one, and fired up both the crowd and their bench in the process. While they made it a hockey game before the final horn had sounded, it was the Lions who would emerge victorious.
Erik Christensen added an empty net goal to seal the victory, his third point of the night, and now finds himself tied for the league lead in goals with 7.
The win propels Prague back to the top of the Western Conference. The Lions lead second-place Locomotiv by a single point, though the latter has two games in hand.
Prague will take the rest of the week off to return home and rest up, before hosting Ilya Kovalchuk and SKA St. Petersburg on Saturday night. The match will be Prague’s first in the O2 Arena, a venue significantly larger than their until-now home of Tipsport Arena, and it is expected to boast a major league atmosphere. It is the first of four scheduled matches for the Lions at O2 this season.