The race for a post-season berth in the Western Conference is getting tighter than ever after Slovan’s 2-1 victory at Amur early today and Jokerit’s overtime loss at home to Barys this evening. Jokerit remains in the top eight, just one point ahead of the Slovaks, while seventh-placed Vityaz is still vulnerable and 10th-placed Sochi can still dream. In the Eastern Confernce, Admiral’s win over Medvescak lifts it to seventh, while Avtomobilist failed to make up ground after an overtime loss at Dinamo Minsk.
Slovan made it seven wins from seven – and got among the points for the 10th game running – after edging this game in the Far East.
The victory briefly put Milos Riha’s team into the playoff places, but Jokerit’s point later in the day pushed the Slovaks back to ninth, one point from a post-season spot.
The visitor made a bright start and took the lead in the seventh minute through Jeff Taffe but Amur livened up in the middle stanza. Barry Brust had to be at his best to deny Igor Rudenkov when the home forward was left all alone in front of the net, first blocking with his pads then deflecting the follow-up shot over the bar.
That miss looked costly when Lukas Vopelka got his second goal of the season early in the third period, and the 20-year-old forward ultimately claimed the game-winner. Oleg Li got one back for Amur with 10 minutes to play, but Brust masterminded a solid rearguard action to secure the win for the visitor.
Admiral opened up a seven-point gap on the chasing pack in its battle to book a playoff spot, thanks to a strong second-period show at home to Medvescak.
The Sailors took the lead early on through a ninth-minute power play goal from Robert Sabolic, with the Slovenian forward picking up where he left off after two goals at Amur last week.
Lukas Lessio tied the game early in the second, but that sparked Sabolic back into action. He made it 2-1 barely a minute later – four goals in two games for the hitman – before Pavel Makarenko added two more before the second intermission. The final stanza offered no further scoring as Admiral’s playoff campaign moved into calmer waters.
Going into the game, Jokerit knew that Slovan had moved ahead in the playoff race – but while the point from an overtime defeat keeps the Finns in the top eight, Jukka Jalonen’s team should have made its position a little more secure.
That meant overtime, and Brandon Bochenski snatched a power play winner to leave the Finns anxiously looking over their shoulders as four teams, separated by three points, battle for two playoff spots.
When the president of your country describes your team’s previous game as “embarrassing”, it’s time to shape up. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, himself a big hockey fan, did not mince his words after Dinamo’s 1-3 horror-show at home to Dinamo Riga before the All-Star break, and the team needed to respond quickly.
Happily, it did, with Marc-Andre Gragnani’s overtime winner settling a compelling encounter in Minsk. He grabbed the vital goal just 29 seconds into the extras, thumping home a shot from the blue line after good work from Fredrik Pettersson for his fourth assist of the night.
However, it took a long time for Dinamo to secure its winning position in a game that ebbed and flowed. The home team led twice in the first period thanks to goals from Evgeny Lisovets and Matt Ellison, but fell behind in the 25th minute when Michal Cajkovsky and Alexei Mikhnov took advantage of a five-on-three power play to score twice in 18 seconds.
Then Gragnani began to get involved. The defenseman had helpers on Aaron Palushaj’s equalizer and Roman Graborenko’s go-ahead goal before returning to claim the winner after Alexander Torchenyuk’s late tying goal salvaged a point for the visitor.
It took a shoot-out to separate these two teams in the final game of the day, with Filipp Toluzakov getting the only goal to hand Dinamo the verdict.
Earlier Dinamo took the lead in the 44th minute through Aleksandrs Jerofejevs, but Yegor Ivanov tied it up 10 minutes later. Janis Kalnins was the busier of the two goalies but held firm to take the game into overtime before making three saves in the shoot-out.