The playoff race in the Eastern Conference is tighter than ever as the regular season enters its final few games. Sibir’s comfortable win over Admiral and Kunlun’s loss at Avangard means that just three points separate Salavat Yulaev in fifth place from Sibir in ninth. Elsewhere there was no fairytale start for Medvescak’s new head coach, Connor Cameron, as his team lost heavily at home to Lokomotiv.
Juha Metsola posted his seventh shut-out of the season to help Amur to its third successive victory in this clash of the Eastern Conference outsiders.
The Finnish goalie made 29 saves to frustrate the home team, while Kirill Kapustin’s maker early in the third period was enough to separate the two teams.
Sibir moved level with Admiral thanks to a thumping home victory. The home team’s fifth successive win lifts it right into playoff contention with just four games left to play.
But the game only came under the home team’s control in the second period, when Alexei Glukhov and Konstantin Okulov stretched that lead to 3-0. Denis Alexeyev got one back for Admiral, but hopes of a revival was sunk in the final stanza. Glukhov added a second before Vladislav Naumov completed the scoring in the 57th minute.
Admiral currently holds eighth place, but only by virtue of having more regulation-time wins than Sibir this season. Both teams are on 79 points, but could join fifth-placed Salavat Yulaev on 82 with a victory in their next game.
After four successive losses, Avangard got back to winning ways at home to playoff-chasing Kunlun.
The key moments came late in the second period, with three goals in four minutes shaping the outcome of this game.
The opener came in the 33rd minute during a passage of four-on-four play. Avangard made better use of the empty space and Jonas Ahnelov found the perfect pass for Pyotr Khokhryakov to score at the far post. Two minutes later and a similar play saw Khokhryakov turn provider for Anton Burdasov to make it 2-0. But Kunlun replied immediately, with Sean Collins scoring a well-worked goal to score just three seconds into a power play.
Kunlun had its chances in the third, but was caught out in the closing seconds and gave up an empty-net goal to Alexander Perezhogin as Avangard sealed the win.
Still smarting for Tuesday’s humiliating derby defeat, Ak Bars needed a strong start to its game against Lada. In the event, it got exactly the opposite.
After that, Ak Bars’ play improved – it could hardly have got much worse – and the team rattled up shots on Ilya Ezhov’s net. But the former SKA man was in impressive form, turning away 37 shots in total to frustrate the visitor.
At the other end, Nikita Filatov added a third goal in the 20th minute and Georgy Belousov piled on the misery with an empty net marker in the last second. Ak Bars has now conceded 12 goals in two games, but remains secure in third place in the Eastern Conference.
Connor Cameron became the KHL’s youngest ever head coach when he stood behind Medvescak’s bench for the first time today – but the 31-year-old could not inspire his charges to a victorious start.
Cameron, who steps in for the Swiss-bound Gordie Dwyer until at least the end of the season, suffered a horrible start to his new role. Lokomotiv spotted the chance to bully the new kid, and grasped it enthusiastically from the off. 0-2 after three minutes became 0-5 early in the second period, and Medvescak was staring at a humiliation on home ice. There was also the small matter of 45 PIMs in the first period, with Thomas Larkin picking up a 5+20 and Lukas Lessio getting a 2+10 in separate incidents. Loko even felt confident enough to recall starting goalie Alexei Murygin in the 25th minute, offering game time to 19-year-old prospect Anton Krasotkin.
Grim as the start was, though, Medvescak found the courage to fight back. Reassured by the steady presence of Michael Garnett between the piping, the penalty count tapered away to nothing and the offense started to click. Mike Glumac scored on the power play, Kirill Voronin made it 2-6 after Brandon Kozun added another for Loko. Then, in the third, Lessio’s power play strike and Ilya Arkalov’s unassisted effort made it 4-6 with 10 minutes left. Suddenly Lokomotiv was in a real game.
It didn’t last. Blake Parlett picked up 30 penalty minutes late on after seeming to manhandle one of the officials and Kozun pocketed his second of the game in the 59th minute to secure Loko’s victory.
Slovan’s playoff prospects took a big blow with this defeat at home to Dynamo, while the Blue-and-Whites made it five wins out of six.
After that, Slovan had more of the game, but failed to create sufficient chances to threaten Alexander Yeryomenko. Patrik Lusnak pulled a goal back in the 28th minute, but the Slovaks could not find an equalizer.
The defeat leaves Slovan in 10th place, with 80 points from 57 games. Jokerit currently holds the last play-off place with 85 points, and has a game in hand on its Slovak rival.