MOSCOW, December 20 (R-Sport) – Pittsburg Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin scored his first hat-trick since arriving in Russia for the NHL lockout, helping Metallurg Magnitogorsk to a 5-3 comeback win at Atlant Moscow Region.
Wednesday's victory means Metallurg joins Traktor Chelyabinsk in third place in the Eastern Conference with 66 points, while Atlant stands 12th in the West.
The visitors were behind for the most part as Atlant’s Mikhail Glukhov scored twice, but both times Malkin was there to restore parity.
Swedish center Andreas Engqvist put the hosts in the lead for the third time at the end of the second period.
Glukhov turned into the antihero as he received a five-minute penalty, gifting Metallurg an advantage it made use of twice - firstly through Canadian center Justin Hodgman and then the KHL's top scorer Sergei Mozyakin.
Malkin scored his third into the empty net, extending his tally to 46 points in 30 games.
“I want to win the Gagarin Cup and this is the main target for me,” Malkin captain said after the game. “I consider all my goals as just help to the team.”
Elsewhere, Eastern Conference leader Avangard Omsk eased past Spartak Moscow 3-0.
Last year’s Gagarin Cup beaten finalist scored one goal in each period as ex-Los Angeles Kings wing Alexander Frolov, Igor Volkov and Vladimir Pervushin hit the target.
Spartak suffered a fourth-consecutive defeat, languishing at the very bottom of the Western Conference.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, second in the West, narrowed the gap to leader Dynamo Moscow to seven points after a 2-1 home win over Traktor.
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Artem Anisimov and Sergei Plotnikov gave the hosts a 2-0 lead by 27 minutes, with only one return goal by Traktor’s top scorer Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Meanwhile, San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski netted a double as Dynamo Minsk gained a 3-1 home victory over Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk to close in on the playoffs zone.
The Belarusians are now 10th in the West, three points behind Lev Prague, which occupies the last playoff spot in eighth, the same place that Neftekhimik holds in the East.
KHL newcomer Donbass Donetsk grabbed its fourth win in a row beating Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk 4-2 to climb to sixth spot in the West.
In other Wednesday games, Alexander Semin’s goal brought Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod a 2-1 win over Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, Barys Astana beat Dinamo Riga 3-2 in overtime and Slovan Bratislava defeated Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1-0 in a shootout.