Avtomobilist head coach Vladimir Krikunov marked his 1,200th game behind the bench with a thumping victory in Helsinki. But the most important victory of the day came in China, where Kunlun Red Star took a big step towards securing a playoff spot while ending Slovan’s seven-game winning streak. Amur won an entertaining game at home to Medvescak, Dinamo Minsk had too much for Ugra and Barys edged past Dinamo Riga to move closer to its own playoff destiny.
Two goals in the closing stages saw the Tigers of the Far East defeat the Bears of Croatia.
The game was tied at 2-2 when Nikita Kamalov put the home team back in front with 11 minutes remaining. Medvescak, now without star forward Francis Pare, who will finish the season playing in Switzerland, could not find a third equalizer and Vyacheslav Litovchenko wrapped up the win with a power play goal two minutes from the end.
Earlier, Jan Kolar gave Amur a second-minute lead, but Samson Mahbod tied it up at the start of the second period. Igor Rudenkov made it 2-1 in the 37th minute, but the third period also brought an early goal as Mike Glumac levelled the scores once more.
Both teams needed the points to support their playoff bids, but Kunlun repeated its previous victory over Slovan to end the visitor’s seven-game winning streak.
In that game on January 5, Slovan’s last defeat prior to today’s encounter, the Kunlun power play made the difference in an overtime success. And penalty trouble cost the Slovaks here as well, with Red Star taking a first-period lead on a 5-on-3 power play. Sean Collins finished from close range after some aerobatics from Joonas Jarvinen put the puck on his stick.
Kunlun dominated the middle stanza without extending its lead, and was facing a difficult finale to the game. But a classic breakaway goal – Brett Bellemore to Tomas Marcinko, an instinctive pass to Alexei Ponikarovsky, and a deadly finish from the top of the circle – ensured that the points stayed in Beijing. Home goalie Tomi Karhunen claimed his third shut-out of the season, turning away 29 shots.
Victory moves Kunlun up to seventh place with a seven-point advantage over Sibir in the race for a playoff spot. Both teams have seven games to play.
Veteran coach Vladimir Krikunov marked his 1,200th game behind the bench with a resounding victory, boosting Avto’s playoff hopes while leaving Jokerit in danger of missing out.
The visitor’s win moves it to within five points of the top eight in the East, but Jokerit remains a point adrift of HC Sochi in the Western Conference race.
Jokerit looked for a way back, and got back to a single goal deficit thanks to Ville Lajunen and Peter Regin, but a strong start to the third period left the home team short of energy to finish the job. Avto responded with further markers from Alexei Vasilevsky and Anatoly Golyshev, before Artyom Gareyev hit the empty net to seal the win.
A strong third-period performance lifted Dinamo Minsk to a comfortable win over Ugra – but it took time for the Western Conference playoff chaser to assert itself against the outsider from the East.
Dinamo made a fast start, with Matt Ellison opening the scoring in the third minute while Ugra failed to register a shot on goal in the opening stanza. But Nikita Dvurechensky tied the game in the second period and despite the visitor’s short-comings on offense, goalie Alexander Sharychenkov was frustrating the home forwards.
The breakthrough eventually came in the 47th minute when Ellison got his second of the game. Now, at last, Dinamo would not be denied. Roman Graborenko made it 3-1 two minutes later and Kirill Gotovets completed the scoring in the 55th minute, claiming the first goal of an injury-hit season for the highly-rated D-man.
Dinamo tightens its grip on sixth place in the West and improves to four wins from five.
Barys moved level on points with Salavat Yulaev and climbed to fifth in the Eastern Conference thanks to a solid win in Latvia.
Roman Starchenko got the visitor on its way with a power play goal in the 14th minute, and penalty trouble cost the host again in the second period when Nigel Dawes made it 2-1 after Miks Indrasis’ equalizer.