HC Sochi returned to form in emphatic style in 2017, winning 5-1 in Yekaterinburg to banish memories of a sluggish finish to the old year. Elsewhere there were shut-out wins for Torpedo at Ugra and Barys at home to Spartak.
HC Sochi’s resounding win at Avtomobilist moved the Black Sea team to within three points of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, while leaving the home team some way off the pace in the East.
Sochi, which had been as high as fourth last year, came into the game on a wretched run of form, with just three victories in 11 games prior to the New Year break.
But the holiday seemed to do Vyacheslav Butsayev’s men some good as the team raced into an early lead that it never relinquished. Alexei Pepelyayev opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a shot from the blue line that ricocheted into the net, then Ben Maxwell went through one-on-one to beat Ivan Lisutin 65 seconds later.
The second period brought two more quick goals. Andrei Kostitsyn fired home the rebound from Ilya Krikunov’s shot to make it 3-0 then Eric O’Dell added a fourth. Yegor Morozov wrapped up the middle stanza with his team’s fifth goal, emerging from behind the net to score on the backhand.
Avtomobilist belatedly got on the scoreboard through Stanislav Chistov in the 53rd minute, but with eight points to make up on the playoff pack, the Yekaterinburg team’s prospects look to be fading.
Barys tightened its grip on sixth place with a shut-out win over a Spartak team that failed to make ground in the playoff race in the West.
Kevin Poulin was the key player for the home team, making 38 saves as the Red-and-Whites failed to find a path to goal. He was busiest in the third period as Spartak fired in 15 shots on his net in a desperate bid to claw a way back into the game. That effort was in vain, however, and Dustin Boyd found the empty net late on to score with only the fourth Barys attempt of the final stanza.
Earlier, Corey Trivino put the home team 1-0 up in the sixth minute and Nigel Dawes added a second just after the midway mark as Spartak found itself two men light following penalties on Lukas Radil and Alexei Bondarev.
Third-placed Torpedo proved too strong for lowly Ugra, with goalie Ilya Proskuryakov claiming his eighth shut-out of the season.
The former CSKA man faced 17 shots in a lackluster game in Khanty-Mansiysk, with the host struggling to create good looks at his net.
Torpedo won it thanks to a Vladimir Galuzin goal in the 33rd minute. Ugra gambled on withdrawing its goalie, Alexander Sharychenkov, with more than two minutes to play after Galuzin took a tripping penalty. But the plan backfired: Dmitry Semin put a shorthanded goal into the empty net to seal the points for the visitor.