Birthday blues

17 February 2012, 23:59

Spartak's Stefan Ruzicka marked his 27th birthday with two club records - but Dinamo Riga gatecrashed the party to win 2-1. Ruzicka's opening goal on 6:34 was his 22nd of the season - a club record in regular season hockey - and it extended the team's scoring run to 85 consecutive games since the last shut-out. But the Latvians knew that victory would confirm a play-off spot, and hit back in the second period with a breakaway goal from Janis Sprukts to equalize before Girts Ankipans got the winner on 37:20.

Almost there
Spartak's struggles meant that CSKA's 4-1 win over Barys Astana left the Army Men almost assured of completing the play-off line-up in the West. Veteran Alexei Yashin struck twice, then added an assist on Nikita Filatov's goal, as CSKA recovered after Jonas Enlund had given the Kazakh visitors an early lead. The result leaves CSKA 11 points clear of Spartak, and knowing that just two more points will guarantee a top-eight finish.

Yugra under pressure
Yugra Khanty Mansiysk faces an anxious end to the season after losing a vital game at Amur Khabarovsk 4-1. Victory in the Far East would have given Yugra breathing space in the race to reach to the play-offs, but now the Siberian side is just three points clear of a resurgent Metallurg Novokuznetsk. Igor Ignatushkin struck twice for Amur, which now enjoys a six point cushion over ninth-placed Metallurg as it aims for its first ever KHL play-off berth.

Menacing Metallurg
The Novokuznetsk side picked up a vital 2-1 win over its namesake from Magnitogorsk to keep its play-off hopes alive. The crucial action came in the second period - Andrei Kuzmin opened the scoring on 26:41 before Filipp Metlyuk doubled the home advantage 10 minutes later. Juhamatti Aaltonen pulled one back in the third period, but it was Novokuznetsk's day.

Salavat battles back
Defending champion Salavat Yulaev Ufa recovered from an early 2-0 deficit to beat Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 6-4. Mikhail Varnakov scored two powerplay goals in the first period - both times with Alexander Radulov sin-binned - but two goals either side of the first siren tied the game. Radulov atoned for his earlier indiscretions with a second period goal before the eventual game-winner came from Antti Pihlstrom to make it 5-2. Pihlstrom then got an assist on Igor Mirnov's last-second empty net effort to smother Torpedo's attempted revival.

The Nordic connection
SKA St Petersburg stayed on top in the West thanks to a 3-1 win at Severstal Cherepovets - and it was a trio of Scandinavian strikers who made the difference. Swedes Tony Martensson and Mattias Weinhandl overturned Vadim Shipachyov's opener for Severstal before Norwegian Patrick Thoresen completed the scoring.

Seven-up Dynamo
Dynamo Moscow continued its strong end to the regular season with a 3-1 win at Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk. The Moscow team has now won seven in a row, raising hopes of a strong play-off campaign for one of Russia's perenniel heavyweights. In Tatarstan the game-winner came from young Mikhail Anisin, his third goal since moving from Vityaz Chekhov a month ago.

Derby-day bruisers
The battle of the Moscow suburbs proved to be a bruising affair with the usual suspects from Vityaz incurring official wrath once again. The Chekhov team racked up 135 penalty minutes in its 5-1 home defeat to Atlant - 125 of them in the fiery final period which saw Kip Brennan, Jeremy Yablonski, Nick Tarnasky, Jon Mirasty and Alexander Fedoseyev all handed game misconduct penalties in a string of brawls. Amid the carnage, Atlant rattled in three further goals to seal a comfortable win thanks to Andrei Zubarev, Patrik Zackrisson and Jonas Andersson.

Traktor stays in front
A 4-2 win at Lev Poprad maintained Traktor's position on top the KHL table - but the Slovak side made it difficult for the leader. An action-packed second period saw almost all the scoring, and the hosts battled back to lead 2-1 by 31:22, with Lubos Bartecko and Rastislav Spirko getting the goals. But another impressive display from Evgeny Kuznetsov saw the youngster get two assists, including one on Alexander Ryazantsev's decisive goal on 39:14.

Around the league
Avangard Omsk piled on the misery for Sibir with a 4-1 win in Novosibirsk. Things started badly for the hosts when Roman Cervenka opened the scoring after just 79 seconds, and by the end of the first period the contest was effectively over at 3-0.

Charles Linglet, one of a clutch of Canadians to be awarded honorary Belarusian citizenship this week thanks to his efforts for Dinamo Minsk, celebrated his new status with the winning goal in his team's 2-1 win over Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg.


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