In Moscow, second-placed CSKA suffered its first defeat in seven games, losing in a shoot-out against Lokomotiv. City rival Spartak endured a similar fate in Slovakia, despite clawing back a four-goal deficit against Slovan. Elsewhere, Torpedo bounced back after two losses, Ugra finished the year on a high note and Amur won the Far East derby.
A late equalizer was not enough to save CSKA from a rare home defeat as Lokomotiv returned to fourth place in the Western Conference.
Maxim Mamin salvaged a point for the Army Men with a goal in the 57th minute, scoring at the end of a third period in which CSKA managed 24 shots but could only steer four of them on target. Despite some wild shooting from his team-mates, Mamin managed to find a way past Alexander Sudnitsin and take the game to a shoot-out as Lokomotiv faded in the closing stages.
But his effort was ultimately in vain when his attempt in the shoot-out was saved. Brandon Kozun and Andrei Loktionov had already scored on Viktor Fasth, and Lokomotiv took the bonus point.
Earlier Artyom Ilyenko, the latest young prospect to emerge from Loko’s engine room, got his first of the season to put the Railwaymen ahead in the 34th minute. CSKA soon tied it up through a prospect of its own, Andrei Yermakov, but Kozun restored the lead 80 seconds later.
There may be little left for these teams to play for this season, but that didn’t stop them serving up a Boxing Day battle in Bratislava.
The first period was sluggish, but after the break Slovan sprang into action with four goals in 10 minutes. Tomas Surovy got two of them, Jeff Taffe had a goal and an assist and Tomas Kundratek got the other. Jonathan Cheechoo contributed two helpers.
That looked like the end for Spartak, but the final stanza saw the Red-and-Whites complete an improbable fightback to tie the game at 4-4. Alexander Vasilyev, Yaroslav Dyblenko, Ryan Stoa and finally Artyom Voronin in the 57th minute took the game into overtime.
There was no further scoring, despite both teams taking penalties in the extras, but Ziga Jeglic and Surovy scored in the shoot-out and finally gave Slovan the victory it thought was secure at the second intermission.
For the third time this season, Jokerit defeated Dinamo Riga in the battle of the Baltic. After two victories in Latvia, the Finns continued their streak on home ice, opening up a six-point gap over ninth-placed HC Sochi.
Goalie Ryan Zapolski, with 17 saves, frustrated Dinamo, most notably with two late stops to deny Mikelis Redlihs late in the game, but the damage was done in the first period when Jokerit scored twice without reply.
Sakari Salminen opened the scoring in the eighth minute and Brian O’Neill got the second in the 19th as the home team dominated the opening stanza, although things might have been different had Lauris Darzins’ shot on a breakaway not rebounded off the post to safety.
Jokerit added a third goal in the 37th minute when the puck bounced off Tommi Huhtala’s skate and into Janis Kalnins’ net. The video showed no kicking motion, so the goal was good.
After staging historic and futuristic games last week, and losing both of them, Torpedo returned to the present day and got back to winning ways by edging Vityaz.
The main incident of the first period was an injury to visiting goalie Harri Sateri, who was replaced in the 15th minute. But Vityaz shrugged that off to take the lead with a Roman Horak power play goal in the 26th minute.
That goal sparked a flurry of scoring. Dmitry Semin tied the scores 26 seconds later and straight from the restart Nikolai Zherdev put Torpedo ahead. The excitement had barely subsided before Vityaz was level again, though, with Nikita Vyglazov completing a burst of four goals in just 84 seconds.
The winner came late in the game when John Norman got his sixth of the season in the 57th minute, despite claims of offside from the visitor. Vityaz remains three points ahead of Sochi in the playoff race, Torpedo stays third in the West.
Ilya Gorokhov, twice a Gagarin Cup winner at Dynamo, made his Amur debut and helped his new team to a derby win at Admiral – despite the home team dominating the early exchanges.
James Wright put the Sailors ahead, Robert Sabolic missed a great opportunity for a second and Amur managed just three shots on goal in the first period … but ended up level when Anton Krysanov cashed in on a defensive error.
Krysanov got his second early in the final stanza only for Dmitry Sayustov to tie it up again. But almost immediately Krysanov turned provider, collecting an assist as Igor Rudenko swept home the winner from the right channel.
Ugra finished a difficult year on a high with victory in its final game of 2016, but Sibir goes into the New Year with work to do to get into the playoff picture.
The visitor made the brighter start and got its reward thanks to Evgeny Artyukhin, but ended the first period killing a 5-on-3 penalty. That enabled Ugra to tie the game early in the second through Alexander Ugolnikov, and Roman Lyuduchin made it 2-1 in the 26th minute. Sibir levelled early in the third with a Joonas Kemppainen strike, but another power play goal, this time for Alexander Makarov, was enough to give Andrei Razin his second win behind the bench for his new club.