Jokerit Helsinki 2 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1 (SO)
Jokerit seems to be hitting form at just the right time to add weight to its playoff push. Today’s victory against a strong Salavat Yulaev team was its fourth in a row, giving the Finns a reassuring three-point cushion over ninth-placed HC Sochi.
But in a game where good goaltending was the key, much of the credit for this win rested on Ryan Zapolski. The 30-year-old American joined Jokerit in the summer after impressing during three seasons in the Liiga with Lukko. During that spell, he also saw some action with Team USA and featured in two Champions Hockey League campaigns before taking the chance to test himself in the KHL.
Today, backstopping a Jokerit team that was without Peter Regin and Charles Genoway, he pulled off 27 saves in regulation and then made two further stops in the shoot-out to deny Anton Lazarev and Denis Parshin. That ensured Sakari Salminen’s successful attempt gave the home team the win.
Jokerit made a great start to the game, opening the scoring in the fourth minute through Antti Pihlstrom, who touched home Ville Lajunen’s power play effort. But visiting goalie Niklas Svedberg proved as tough a barrier as Zapolski, preventing the host from extending that advantage.
Salavat Yulaev included former Jokerit star Linus Omark in its roster, but lost the services of free-scoring Finn Teemu Hartikainen when the latter was ejected for elbowing Jesse Joensuu in the face late in the first period. Omark made a more useful contribution late in the second, getting the assist as Kirill Kaprizov scored an impressive equalizer.
But the teams could not find any more goals until the shoot-out, and Zapolski stood firm to give Jokerit two valuable points.
Dinamo Minsk 2 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4
Sergei Mozyakin got his 30th goal of the season for Magnitka – reaching that mark for the fifth time in the KHL.
The master marksman struck in the sixth minute, putting Metallurg ahead with a power play goal before adding an assist on Danis Zaripov’s empty-net goal to complete the scoring.
In between times Oskar Osala scored a short-handed goal late in the first period before Rob Klinkhammer got Dinamo on the scoreboard midway through the second. Chris Lee and Alexander Pavlovich then traded goals in the latter part of the middle session but Dinamo was never able to get closer than one goal behind.
The win returns Metallurg to the top of the Eastern Conference, while Dinamo missed the chance to put some daylight between itself and HC Sochi in the race for a playoff spot in the West.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 7 Barys Astana 1
A four-goal blast in the first 11 minutes set Lokomotiv on the way to an emphatic victory, with Brandon Kozun finishing the game with a hat-trick to take his tally to 13 for the season.
Kozun opened the scoring in the sixth minute before laying on an assist as Max Talbot made it 2-0. Pavel Koledov added a third, chasing Henrik Karlsson from the net, but the incoming Kevin Poulen was beaten soon after as Vladislav Kartayev made it 4-0.
Ivan Kulich pulled one back for Barys in the 28th minute but Loko – and Kozun in particular – had no interest in easing off. The Canadian forward made it 5-1 with a wonderful solo effort in the 38th minute and completed his treble in the third period. Andrei Loktionov completed the rout in the 58th minute.
Around the league
Dynamo’s improved form continued with a 4-1 win over Avtomobilist, making it four wins in a row for the Moscow team. Ansel Galimov and Artyom Podshendyalov put the Blue-and-Whites in control with two goals late in the first period before Vladimir Bryukvin and Konstantin Gorovikov made it 4-0 in the second. Petr Koukal got one back for Avto in the 57th minute, denying Alexander Yeryomenko a third successive shut-out.
A goal from Konstantin Panov with 10 minutes to play gave Ugra a 3-2 win at Vityaz and snapped a six-game losing streak. The playoff chasing host trailed after 74 seconds to a Pavel Varfoloveyev goal but Roman Horak equalized midway through the game. Early in the third Kirill Belyayev put Ugra back in front only for Alexei Kopeikin to respond within three minutes. But Panov’s effort pushed Vityaz down to eighth place, just one point clear of HC Sochi.
Dinamo Riga played its second game on tour in Tallinn, but could not repeat its heroic win over Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Instead, Traktor left the Estonian capital with a 4-2 victory thanks to goals from Derek Roy, Paul Szczechura, Alexei Kruchinin and Maxim Yakutsenya. Lauris Darzins and Miks Indrasis got Dinamo’s replies.