Dinamo Minsk 3 Jokerit Helsinki 2 (SO)
The race for the Western Conference playoffs is tighter than ever this season, with just three points separating fifth-placed HC Sochi from ninth-placed Jokerit at the start of play. So, the Finns’ meeting with sixth-placed Dinamo in Minsk was a huge game for both teams, and the others around them.
Victory for the host would offer valuable breathing space; an away win would put Jokerit back into the top eight. But with so little to choose between the teams, it was little surprise that it took a shoot-out to settle the outcome.
Even then, Alexander Materukhin’s winner for Dinamo could not be confirmed until the video officials were satisfied that Ben Scrivens had kept out Jokerit’s final attempt from Sakari Salminen. Once the review showed that the save was good, Dinamo could celebrate its third win on the bounce.
Jokerit’s point moves it level with Vityaz and Dynamo Moscow, but its superior number of regulation wins lifts it to seventh and pushes the Muscovites out of the playoff picture for now. Dinamo moves on to 51 points, now three adrift of Sochi after the Black Sea team won at home to Slovan.
The extras were needed thanks to Matt Ellison. Dinamo’s prolific forward has been a goal threat in this league since he played under Oleg Znarok at MVD back in KHL Season 2. Familiarity, though, has not dimmed his effectiveness and he produced another clutch goal to rescue a 2-2 tie in the 54th minute here.
Ellison’s goal got Dinamo out of some trouble. The Belarusians were behind from the 10th minute and Jokerit was getting more shooting chances. Even on a power play late on, the path to goal seemed to be blocked by some resolute Finnish defense until Ellison intervened, exchanging passes with Evgeny Kovyrshin before finding the top shelf through heavy traffic in front of Ryan Zapolski.
Earlier the goals flowed quickly. Peter Regin scored on the power play to give Jokerit a fifth-minute lead, but two minutes later the tables were turned as Dinamo’s PP gave Materukhin the equalizer. Parity was short-lived, though, as Charles Genoway put the Finns ahead in the 10th minute.
Avangard Omsk 6 Lada Togliatti 3
Two goals apiece for Alexander Perezhogin and Nikolai Lemtyugov helped Avangard secure its seventh successive win, while Lada slipped to a seventh loss in eight games.
The visitor has seen its playoff prospects suffer during its recent slump, but made a bright start here when Denis Zernov scored after 87 seconds. It was a false dawn, however. Lemtyugov and Perezhogin scored in quick succession to see Avangard in front in the fourth minute before Anton Burdasov added a third soon after. Burdasov had missed out on the points in the past two games after a sudden flurry of scoring form, but served notice that he is still a goal threat with a seventh-minute marker.
It was a lead that Avangard would never relinquish. Ilya Mikheyev made it 4-1 in the first period before Lemtyugov’s second extended the advantage still further. Nikita Filatov stopped the rot and made it 5-2, Kristaps Sotnieks pulled back a third for Lada but the fightback soon fizzled out as Perezhogin scored his second of the night to wrap up the scoring.
Sibir Novosibirsk 1 Ak Bars Kazan 2
It took time for Ak Bars to solve goalie Danny Taylor, but eventually the visitor found a way through and claimed a narrow win.
For two periods, Ak Bars was well on top. The first session was all about Taylor in the Sibir net as he kept his team in contention by turning away 14 shots. The visitor was dominant, but could not force a breakthrough.
In the middle stanza even Sibir’s own media service had to admit that the host was unable to cause problems for Ak Bars’ defense or goalie. Taylor’s resistance was finally ended on the half hour as Jiri Sekac scored on the power play, and two minutes later Andrei Chibisov doubled the lead to give the Eastern Conference high flyer an advantage that better reflected its control over the game.
But the final session threatened to turn all that upside down. Staring defeat in the face, Sibir was finally liberated and its offense began to spark. The shot count swung dramatically in the host’s favour – 16-3 for the third period – and when Stepan Sannikov converted a 57th-minute power play there was a real danger that Ak Bars would end up regretting its failure to get past Taylor early on.
In the event, though, Emil Garipov held on to see his team claim a narrow win that keeps it pressing Metallurg Magnitogorsk at the top of the Eastern section.
Around the league
Torpedo tightened its grip on third place in the Western Conference with an emphatic 5-0 home win over struggling Medvescak. Vladimir Galuzin opened the scoring in the 14th minute and there were stand-out contributions from Alexander Frolov (one goal, one assist) and Artyom Alyayev (two assists), as well as goalie Ilya Proskuryakov, who made 27 saves. Carter Ashton, John Norman and Dmitry Semin were the other goalscorers.
Neftekhimik kept its recent revival going with a 5-4 win at Metallurg Novokuznetsk. In-form forward Gilbert Brule needed just eight seconds to open the scoring, but within five minutes Metallurg was ahead on goals from Evgeny Solovyov and Evgeny Viksna. Pavel Podryagin tied it up in the first and three unanswered markers in the middle stanza saw Dan Sexton, Gennady Stolyarov and Nikita Kvartalnov put the visitor in control. Solovyov led the attempted fightback, assisting on Ignat Zemchenko’s goal before scoring one himself, but Neftekhimik held on.
A goal in each period saw HC Sochi to a 3-0 win at home to Slovan. Yegor Morozov, Ivan Zakharchuk and Mikhail Mamkin found the net, while Konstantin Barulin blanked the Slovaks with 24 saves.