In-form Torpedo continues to blaze a winning trail around Russia, scoring six in Ufa to make it five road wins in a row since the New Year. In the Far East, Kunlun Red Star claimed a vital edge in the playoff race, recovering to beat Jokerit while Admiral slumped to defeat against Dinamo Riga. Lokomotiv beat Ak Bars in the clash of the big-hitters, while there were shut-out successes for Amur and Dynamo Moscow.
Amur goalie Juha Metsola posted his fifth shut-out of the season to deny Dinamo Minsk.
The 27-year-old Finn made 33 saves, 19 of them in a heroic third-period display that preserved his team’s slender advantage.
At the other end, an unassisted goal from Vyacheslav Litovchenko in the 51st minute gave Amur the points. Litovchenko stripped Dmitry Korobov of the puck in center ice and raced through to beat Ben Scrivens for his third goal of the season.
Dinamo, so strong at the end of 2016, has now lost three games in a row in the New Year. It remains in a playoff position, but its cushion over ninth-placed Vityaz is down to five points.
Missed chances, failed PP and general frustration summed up Admiral’s day as the Eastern Conference playoff chaser dropped points at home to struggling Dinamo Riga.
The first period had the game in a microcosm: Admiral attacked and attacked, firing in 15 shots and allowing just four, but could not score. Filipp Toluzakov gave the Latvians the lead with a power play goal from an end-to-end move, and Admiral then squandered a long 5-on-3 advantage with no home player seemingly willing to take responsibility for the decisive shot.
The middle stanza was similar, with Admiral dominating but failing to turn its advantage into goals. Tim Sestito doubled Dinamo’s lead before Alexander Gorshkov finally got the host on the scoreboard after an error in the visitor’s defense. A second goal for Sestito early in the third put the seal on a disappointing day for the Sailors, who drop to eighth place, just one point better off than Neftekhimik.
A goal blitz at the start of the third period saw Kunlun shake off its New Year hangover in style and reinvigorate its playoff push.
The Chinese team had lost five of its last six and looked to be continuing its downward spiral after goals from Brian O’Neill and Roope Talaja gave Jokerit a 2-0 lead early in the second period. But the host dug deep, showing great character to tie the game with a short-handed goal from Chad Rau and an equalizer on the wraparound from Martin Bakos. All square at the second intermission.
Then Red Star went through the gears to score three goals in less than six minutes. French forward Damien Fleury had a role in all three, getting the tip on Tommi Taimi’s shot from the point to make it 3-2 in the 42nd minute, before chasing play into the corner and emerging with the puck to set up Tomas Marcinko for 4-2. Finally, Fleury screened goalie Ryan Zapolski as Tobias Viklund crashed home a fifth. Ville Lajunen got one back for Jokerit, but Tomi Sallinen finished it off with an empty-net goal. Kunlun moves into seventh ahead of Admiral, Jokerit remains seventh in the West.
Ufa is gearing up to host the KHL’s All-Star week starting Sunday, and at times Torpedo produced some exhibition hockey to blitz the home team in this game and make it five straight wins in 2017.
Peteris Skudra’s team, third in the West, is getting hot as the regular season comes to its end, with all five of those victories coming on the road. Throw in a 3-2 home success over Vityaz in December, and it’s six without defeat right now.
Carter Ashton led the way here, scoring twice for the second time in three games. He snapped a 1-1 tie with a power play goal in the 18th minute, then made it 3-1 early in the second period. Both efforts were assisted by Ivan Vishnevsky, scorer of Torpedo’s opener.
All the while Salavat Yulaev dominated the shot count, eventually finishing 39-22 ahead, but could not add to Linus Omark’s first-period goal. At the other end, though, Torpedo was clinical. D-man Denis Barantsev found time to make it 4-1 despite collecting nine PIMs during the game, emerging from a five-minute fighting penalty to score in the 34th minute after trading blows with Enver Lisin. Kirill Urakov and Danil Veryayev added two more goals in the final stanza. For Torpedo, the winning run continues; for Salavat Yulaev, this was the heaviest home defeat of the season so far.
Dynamo wasted little time in taking control of this match, with two goals in the first four minutes setting the Blue-and-Whites on the road to victory.
Neftekhimik improved in the second period, having more of the chances but failing to beat Alexander Yeryomenko in the home net. Rylov got his second of the night in the 40th minute to pu the game out of reach.
The final stanza was played at a calm tempo, with relatively few clear chances at either end. Lukas Kaspar completed the scoring late on, Yeryomenko finished the game with 31 saves and yet another shut-out.
Ak Bars slipped to a third successive defeat despite taking an early lead in Yaroslavl, and missed the chance to confirm its playoff place.
Neftekhimik’s loss in Moscow meant that a win at Lokomotiv would have confirmed Ak Bars’ involvement in the post-season, but Jiri Sekac’s opening goal in the seventh minute was the highlight of the visitor’s evening.
The home team equalized in the 17th minute when Yegor Averin deflected a shot from the point past Emil Garipov. The video officials saw no evidence of a kicking motion as the puck ricocheted off the forward’s skate.
Another deflected goal gave Lokomotiv the win. Artyom Ilyenko fired a shot in, and a kind bounce off an Ak Bars player took it into the net. Loko’s third win in four games tightens its grip on fourth place in the West.