Jokerit Helsinki 4 Medvescak Zagreb 3 (OT)
An overtime win over Medvescak saw Jokerit make it five victories in a row and climb to fifth in the Western Conference.
A last-minute power play goal from Ville Lajunen gave the Finns the extra point following a 3-3 draw that ebbed and flowed from start to finish.
Earlier, though, it was young Frank Gymer who had a day to remember as he announced himself in the KHL in some style. The 20-year-old gave Jokerit a fifth-minute lead with an outrageous goal, deking his way around Derek Smith before lasering a shot onto the top shelf. Not a bad way to open a career tally in the KHL.
The lead was short-lived. Mark Katic tied it up within a minute and Alexander Boldyuk put Medvescak in front early in the second. Pekka Jormakka and Tommi Huhtala turned it around for the home team before the second intermission, but the Croatian visitor was in no mood to give up the game and, inspired by a lively third-period display from Francis Pare, forced parity in the 50th minute. Pare claimed an assist as Bobby Butler made it 3-3 to take us to overtime and Lajunen’s late winner.
Although the two points for this win lifts the Finns up to fifth place, the battle for the playoffs is still very much alive. Ninth-placed Vityaz is just four points adrift of Jokerit
Dinamo Minsk 4 Slovan Bratislava 1
HC Sochi 2 Lada Togliatti 1
All bets are off in the five-team scramble for four playoff spots in the Western Conference. While the top four of SKA, CSKA, Torpedo and Lokomotiv look more or less assured of prolonging their seasons, there’s a huge struggle going on just below, with only four points separating fifth-placed Jokerit from ninth-placed Vityaz.
Home wins in Minsk and Sochi saw Vityaz drop out of the top eight – at least for now – but there’s still plenty of hockey to be played as the Moscow Region team bids for its first ever KHL post season and Dynamo Moscow battles to maintain its record of qualifying every time.
In Minsk, Dinamo eventually recorded a comfortable win over Slovan but needed three goals in the last 15 minutes to take the points. Evgeny Lisovets put the home team ahead in the 25th minute but Slovan tied it up through Mislav Rosandic’s second goal of the season in the 45th. The home team responded quickly, with Alexander Materukhin reinstating the lead inside a minute. Alexander Kulakov made it three and Rob Klinkhammer’s empty-netter wrapped up the points.
On the Black Sea coast, HC Sochi had a harder time overcoming Lada. Ben Maxwell’s 52nd-minute goal, created by the tireless work of Igor Levitsky, was enough to finally subdue the Eastern Conference struggler. Evgeny Skachkov had given the home team a first-period lead, but a power play goal from Viktor Komarov tied it up early in the third.
Around the league
Ak Bars missed its chance to return to the top of the Eastern Conference after a narrow defeat away at Spartak. Chess grandmaster Sergei Karjakin performed the ceremonial face-off before this game and ushered in a game as cagey as his recent World Championship series in New York. Nikita Bespalov’s 23 saves frustrated the visitor before Ryan Stoa’s 53rd minute delivered a checkmate to Ak Bars’ hopes.
Torpedo handed a 4-2 defeat to Neftekhimik, hampering the latter’s chances of breaking into the top eight in the East. Seeking revenge for last week’s 6-5 overtime loss in Nizhnekamsk, Torpedo raced into a four-goal lead. Dmitry Syomin opened the scoring in the first period, Carter Ashton and Maxim Osipov both scored in the 35th minute and Kirill Vorobyov got the fourth in the 38th. Neftekhimik hit back in the third through Ivan Lekomtsev and Sergei Konkov but could not get any closer to welcoming head coach Andrei Nazarov back from suspension with a victory.