Nizhny Novgorod (17:00)
CSKA left it late before clinching a derby-day triumph thanks to two goals from Andrei Svetlakov. Elsewhere, Ivan Nalimov had a successful debut in goal for Sibir, Barys boosted its playoff hopes with a come-from-behind win over Avangard and Sochi lost ground on the top eight after losing at home to Spartak.
Ivan Nalimov had a perfect start to life as a Sibir player, recording a shut-out in his first game after moving from Admiral.
Nalimov made 15 saves as Sibir dominated the game in Novokuznetsk and moved to within one point of eighth-placed Admiral in the Eastern Conference table.
But the wealth of opportunities for the visitor did not produce a glut of goals. A solitary strike from Konstantin Okulov, firing a one-timer past Vladislav Podyapolsky direct from a face-off in the 52nd minute, was the only score of the game.
Metallurg, rock bottom of the KHL table, finishes its 2016 program with a run of five straight defeats, three of them without scoring.
Sometimes it’s the team in greater need that finds the will to win through in difficult circumstances. Today’s game in Astana was one of those times.
Avangard arrived in Kazakhstan secure in second place in the Eastern Conference. Leader Metallurg Magnitogorsk is not out of reach, but the defending champion’s games in hand make it a clear favorite to top the section, while Traktor and Salavat Yulaev are 12 and 15 points back.
Barys, meanwhile, began the day in seventh, anxiously eying the battle for a playoff place. Victory for the home team would offer a bit of security in the race for post-season.
At first, things went against the host. Despite allowing Avangard just three shots on goal in the opening session, Ilya Zubov gave the visitor the lead in the 19th minute. With the home offense also misfiring, it wasn’t easy to see where a fightback would come from as Barys mustered 12 shots in 40 minutes of play.
But the final stanza wrought a transformation: Kirill Panyukov tied it up in the 43rd minute and the spell on Dominik Furch’s net was lifted. Martin St. Pierre made it 2-1 in the 46th during a passage of 4-on-4 play and Avangard had to raise its own lackluster game on offense to get back into contention. That never really happened, and Konstantin Pushkaryov’s empty net goal served to underline a victory that lifts Barys up to sixth, five points clear of ninth-placed Sibir.
Two late goals from young forward Andrei Svetlakov earned CSKA a narrow verdict over city rival Dynamo in the big game on Wednesday’s card.
The 20-year-old, who was starring with Russia’s juniors at the World Championship this time last year, struck in the 53rd and 54thminutes to turn a 2-3 deficit into a winning 4-3 lead. Bogdan Kiselevich added a fifth on the power play to wrap up the points for CSKA.
Svetlakov tied the scores from close range off Maxim Mamin’s pass from behind Alexander Zalivin’s net, then went on to win it 70 seconds later with a one-timer from the right-hand circle after Andrei Kuzmenko led a break down the left channel.
CSKA had much the better of the first period, but ended up as architect of its own downfall in the closing minutes. The Army Men took the game to their city rival and arguably should have had more than Kuzmenko’s 11th-minute goal to show for a powerful performance.
Instead, though, the teams went to the intermission tied at 1-1. A needless Svetlakov foul and a delaying the game penalty for Artyom Blazhievsky gave Dynamo a 5-on-3 advantage. The Blue-and-Whites cashed in thanks when Martins Karsums exploited the additional space to score 31 seconds before the interval.
The second stanza was similar. CSKA again had more chances and spent much of the period in the Dynamo zone. But it wasn’t until the 35th minute that Blazhievsky put the Army Men back in front. That lead was short-lived. With the teams playing 4-on-4, Yakov Rylov fired the puck across the face of the net and profited from a lucky bounce off a CSKA skate.
Dynamo got ahead for the first and only time in the game on a Juuso Hietanen goal early in the third, the Finnish D-man firing in a powerful wrist shot from the right. But Svetlakov was destined to have the final say as CSKA took the points and the bragging rights.
Spartak breathed life into its playoff hopes and dealt a heavy blow to one of its rivals for a top eight finish thanks to a 10-minute spell at the start of the second period.
Sochi had the edge in the opening stanza but failed to score, and Spartak punished its host after the intermission. Lukas Radil converted a 23rd-minute power play before ex-Sochi man Denis Tolpeko fed Vsevolod Sorokin for number two. Another power play on the half-hour saw another Matt Gilroy shot deflected past Konstantin Barulin, with Ryan Stoa getting the crucial touch this time. The unmarked Igor Mirnov added a third goal on 32 minutes to put Spartak in complete control.
The home team tried to find a way back and Ivan Zakharchuk forced the puck home from a tight angle to reduce the deficit late in the second period. But Spartak was in no mood to slacken its grip and defended stoutly in the final session to see out the win.