Vityaz Podolsk 2 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 1

Vityaz returned to the top eight in the West as a fascinating race for the playoff spots got even tighter.

The Moscow Region team came from a goal down to defeat Lokomotiv and join Dinamo Minsk and Dynamo Moscow on 49 points. One point adrift of that trio, Jokerit lies in ninth place, but even HC Sochi up in fifth can hardly feel secure with a tally of 51 from 33 games – more than any of its immediate rivals.

Vityaz, historically an outsider in the KHL, boosted its hopes of a first ever post-season thanks to goals from Miro Aaltonen and Alexei Kopeikin, two of the players who arrived at the club this summer. Aaltonen’s power play goal in the 26th minute was the Finn’s 12th of the season – and Vityaz has yet to lose a game in which he has found the net.

Kopeikin, a vastly-experienced forward who came from Sibir, also scored for the 12th time in this campaign, getting the game-winning goal in the 51st minute. Both efforts were assisted by Czech defenseman Jakub Jerabek.

Earlier Max Talbot gave Lokomotiv a first-period lead but it was enough to inspire a repeat of the Railwaymen’s 3-1 win when the teams met in Yaroslavl in September.

Battling Lada loses again

Ak Bars Kazan 5 Lada Togliatti 3

Ak Bars handed Lada a fourth successive defeat, but the visitor can take some heart from a third-period fightback.

It seemed that the game was all but over when the host went 4-1 ahead despite giving up the opening goal of the game. Vasily Streltsov’s 24th-minute effort for Lada was quickly cancelled out: Mikhail Varnakov and Mikhail Glukhov had Ak Bars in front before the half-hour; Vasily Tokranov added a third late in the middle session and Dmitry Obukhov added to the lead in the 43rd minute.

But a once commanding advantage was eroded as Lada battled back into the game. Viktor Komarov and Denis Zernov got the Motormen back to 3-4 with 10 minutes left, only for the revival to reach the end of the road when Anton Glinkin scored into an empty net.