HC Sochi, currently third in the three-horse race to clinch the two remaining playoff places in the West, knew that there was no margin for error coming into Monday’s game. The Black Sea team started out six points adrift of eighth-placed Jokerit, and with four games left to play, defeat at home to Torpedo would demand a fightback comparable to the Patriots’ revival in Sunday night’s Superbowl if Sochi was going to extend its season.
Torpedo, meanwhile, was also embroiled in a three-way battle, taking on Lokomotiv and Dynamo Moscow in search of a top-four finish and home ice advantage at the start of the playoffs. Less existential, perhaps, than Sochi’s need for points, but nonetheless significant.
The early exchanges favored Torpedo, with Konstantin Barulin kept busy from the first minute, but Sochi opened the scoring against the run of play. Pavel Padakin got the goal off a Ben Maxwell feed. The visitor recovered to tie it up through Kaspars Daugavins at the end of the opening stanza.
Two quick goals from Andre Petersson and Eric O’Dell – the latter on the power play – put Sochi in a strong position and saw Mikhail Biryukov replace Ilya Proskuryakov in the Torpedo net. Dmitry Semin quickly pulled one back with a power play goal for Torpedo, ushering in another period in which the visitor forced Barulin to be at his best. But the decisive goal came at the other end when Ilya Krikunov scored into an empty net.
Sochi moves to within three points of Jokerit, and still has a game in hand on the Finns. The race for the playoffs is going down to the wire.