Andy Potts,
exclusive for

A vital victory for Salavat Yulaev saw Igor Zakharkin’s team down Ak Bars 3-1 and ease fears that it would miss out on this year’s playoffs. Elsewhere, Vityaz defeated Kunlun 5-3 to confirm its first ever KHL post-season campaign, while CSKA moved back into top spot and is just two games short of winning its third successive Continental Cup. Barys became the latest team to qualify for the Eastern Conference playoffs, but below the Kazakhs there are six teams still hoping to claim one of three remaining spots.

Barys joins the post-season party

Barys Astana 2 Sibir Novosibirsk 1 (OT)

Barys confirmed its playoff spot after collecting the point it needed with a 1-1 tie in regulation. Dustin Boyd’s 13th-minute goal cancelled out Kirill Vorobyov’s early opener for Sibir and ultimately proved sufficient to ensure the Kazakhs would be back in post-season after missing out last year.

Sibir, though, needs points to secure a top-eight finish for itself. Going into the game it was three points behind eighth-placed Admiral, which lost heavily at Lokomotiv the day before. But the visitor was unable to make big inroads into that gap, losing out to a Kevin Dallman goal deep into overtime.

Sibir remains in ninth place, two points adrift of Admiral with two games to play. Barys will face Traktor when the Eastern Conference playoff starts on Feb. 22, but the remaining two games of the regular season will determine which team gets home ice advantage at the beginning of that series.

Salavat revives playoff dream

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3 Ak Bars Kazan 1

Nine successive defeats had put Salavat’s playoff prospects in doubt – and the team still isn’t mathematically certain of getting there – but a momentous victory against old rival Ak Bars has changed the atmosphere around the Bashkiria team.

Head coach Igor Zakharkin was quick to hail his team’s unity in adversity following a vital win that puts Salavat Yulaev five points clear of ninth-placed Sibir, with its rival having just two games left to play.

“In the last few weeks I’ve found out who is a real friend of the club,” he said after the game. “I found out who panics, and who believes in us. I’m pleased by the way the team has come together during this bad run – nobody ever gave up.”

Zakharkin also noted that his team needed the win more than Ak Bars and the line-ups emphasized that point. Salavat’s whizzkid, Kirill Kaprizov, played immediately after returning from his heroics for Team Russia; his Ak Bars equivalent, Vladimir Tkachyov, was allowed time to rest.

All the scoring came in the first period, and most of it in a remarkable 85 seconds that produced three of the game’s four goals. Salavat took an early lead thanks to Igor Grigorenko – the experienced sniper’s return to scoring form after an injury-plagued season offering another boost to the team. Ten minutes later, Alexander Nesterov made it 2-0, but Atte Ohtamaa got his first goal of the season to halve the deficit. It didn’t take long for the home team to reassert itself, though, with Alexander Loginov making it 3-1 on 13:48.

It remained that way to the end, despite Ak Bars getting the puck in Niklas Svedberg’s net once again early in the second period. That effort was ruled out for goalie interference, and Salavat held its opponent at arm’s length to move back up to sixth in the table. Ironically, a sixth-placed finish would bring another playoff series against Ak Bars, with the Kazan team assured of third place in the Eastern Conference.

Avto maintains faint playoff chance

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 7 Metallurg Novokuznetsk 2

Avtomobilist’s playoff hopes are almost theoretical, but this emphatic victory confirmed that nobody in the Urals is going to give up until the battle is over.

Two goals apiece for Rok Ticar and Denis Mingaleyev (the 22-year-old had only managed one in his previous 25 games this season) provided the platform for this success after Ignat Zemchenko gave rock-bottom Metallurg a surprise lead in the 15th minute.

Further goals from Dmitry Megalinsky, Alexander Torchenyuk and Alexei Mikhnov added weight to the scoreline before Artyom Mikheyev got one back for Metallurg in the 48th minute.

Overtime win for Avangard

Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk 2 Avangard Omsk 3 (OT)

Fyodor Kanareikin’s team twice came from behind to win at Ugra thanks to Anton Burdasov’s 17th goal of the season.

The forward got the decider in the third minute of overtime, converting a power play to give his team the lead for the first, and most important, time in the game.

Earlier, Konstantin Panov gave Ugra an early lead, only for Jonas Ahnelov to tie it up late in the first period. Then Andrei Alexeyev’s power play goal made it 2-1 to Ugra in the 27th minute, before Vladimir Sobotka levelled midway through the game.

Daugavins downs Severstal

Severstal Cherepovets 2 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 3 (OT)

Latvian forward Kaspars Daugavins gave Torpedo victory with a goal 17 seconds into overtime – but the visitor may feel it should have wrapped up the points before that.

A short-handed goal in the 58th minute saw Dmitry Kagarlitsky salvage a 2-2 tie for Severstal in a position where Torpedo would have expected to see out the remaining minutes without undue alarm.

Earlier, Daugavins assisted on Alexander Frolov’s 27th-minute opener. Daniil Vovchenko tied it up 10 minutes later, but Carter Ashton responded immediately to make it 2-1 to Torpedo.

Dominant Dinamo

Dinamo Minsk 8 Lada Togliatti 3

The final scoreline was emphatic, but it wasn’t until deep into the second period that this game finally got away from Lada.

The home team opened up a 2-0 lead early on through Aaron Palushaj and Ilya Shinkevich, but Andrei Ivanov scored twice to tie the scores before the first intermission.

In the middle stanza, Palushaj got his second and Evgeny Lisovets made it 4-2, before Semyon Valuisky reduced the deficit. This time, though, Dinamo renewed its offensive: Rob Klinkhammer scored in the 39th and 40th minutes to put the outcome beyond doubt.

The third period saw two power play goals for Fredrik Pettersson complete the scoring.

Dynamo recovers to beat Amur

Dynamo Moscow 3 Amur Khabarovsk 2

The Blue-and-Whites are still in with a chance of claiming third place in the Western Conference, but it took a big fight-back to overcome Amur.

The visitor went ahead in the 15th minute through Vitaly Popov, then Ilya Gorokhov – due to retire at the end of the season – signed off his final visit to his former club with a power play goal early in the second.

Dynamo rallied through Juuso Hietanen’s 12th of the season before Maxim Solovyov got his first of the campaign to tie the scores. Martins Karsums won it with less than two minutes to play.

Jokerit closes on playoff place

Jokerit Helsinki 3 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 2 (OT)

Both teams needed the win here to enhance their playoff chances, but it was Jokerit that had the edge after a hard-fought game.

The Finns, looking to get away from HC Sochi in the Western Conference, took a 10th-minute lead through Tommi Huhtala, only for Gilbert Brule to tie the scores in the 17th.

Defenseman Topi Jaakola looked to have given the home team a winning advantage with a power play goal midway through the second period, but Neftekhimik, looking to sneak into the top eight in the East, forced overtime when Richard Gynge tied it up with 96 seconds left to play. Gynge’s 22 goals this season have earned him a call-up to Sweden’s national team, but may not be enough to take Neftekhimik back to the playoffs.

Overtime was almost done when Jokerit finally snatched the win. Mika Niemi’s goal came just six seconds from the end; the Finns are five points ahead of Sochi with two games to go.

Vityaz makes history

Vityaz Moscow Region 5 Kunlun Red Star 3

For the first time in the club’s history, Vityaz has reached the KHL playoffs. The Moscow Region team, one of the competition’s founder members back in 2008, has endured a reputation for piling up penalties rather than goals, but under the guidance of head coach Valery Belov, the class of 2017 is poised to bring playoff hockey to Podolsk.

Tonight’s victory over Kunlun, coupled with Sochi’s loss at CSKA, sealed the deal – but Vityaz had to do it the hard way. Twice, the visitor went ahead on goals from Linus Videll and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Twice, though, Vityaz hit back within minutes thanks to power play goals from Miro Aaltonen and Roman Horak.

Then everything changed. Two goals in 10 seconds transformed the game. Horak poached his second PP marker of the night to give his team the lead for the first time on 42:28. Then, after losing out in the face-off, Vityaz pressed the puck deep in Kunlun territory. Tuukka Mantyla was pickpocketed in front of his own net, Alexander Pankov turned misdemeanor into felony with a close-range finish. 4-2, and the top eight was in touching distance.

Kunlun hit back – Sean Collins halved the deficit with 10 minutes to play and the Chinese team threw everything at the host. Goalie Tomi Karhunen was withdrawn with more than two minutes left, but there was no reward for enterprise. Instead Alexei Makeyev scored into the empty net to kickstart the post-season party.

14.02.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Vityaz (Moscow Region) - Kunlun Red Star (Beijing)

Spartak spikes SKA’s title charge

SKA St. Petersburg 2 Spartak Moscow 4

With nothing to play for except pride, Spartak travelled to title-chasing SKA and produced one of the shock results of the season. Weathering a storm in the early stages, the Red-and-Whites recovered from Evgeny Ketov’s early goal to claim a dramatic victory … and hand city rival CSKA the advantage in the race for top spot.

Two goals in a minute midway through the first period saw Alexander Vasilyev and Yaroslav Dyblenko put Spartak in front. Then, after the intermission, the visitor scored twice more through Lukas Radil and Viktor Bobrov. A shock was brewing.

SKA created chances to get back into it, but Markus Svensson was in fine form and only Ilya Kovalchuk’s 30th of the season got past the visiting goalie. SKA can still win the Continental Cup, but must hope for a slip-up from CSKA in the remaining games.

CSKA goes top

CSKA Moscow 4 HC Sochi 3

With two games left in the regular season, CSKA finds itself on course to claim its third successive Continental Cup. The Moscow team is level on points with its Petersburg rival, but holds the advantage thanks to winning more games in regulation this season. If Dmitry Kvartalnov’s men can match SKA’s results in the last two games, the regular season prize will be heading to Moscow once again.

That’s due to a solid victory over an HC Sochi team still chasing a playoff place … and chasing this game from the moment Stephane Da Costa put CSKA ahead on the power play in the ninth minute.

Andrei Kuzmenko doubled that lead midway though the second, before Sochi recovered to get back on level terms. Andrei Kostitsyn and Andre Petersson scored two goals in 73 seconds to startle the host, but Kuzmenko’s second got CSKA back on track. Alexander Popov made it 4-2 in 35th minute and this time Sochi had no answer.

Alexander Mereskin ensured the final stanza was competitive, pulling a goal back in the 43rd minute, but CSKA held on to reclaim top spot.

14.02.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. CSKA (Moscow) - HC Sochi (Sochi)

Kundratek gets the winner for Slovan

Medvescak Zagreb 4 Slovan Bratislava 5 (OT)

Neither team had much to play for at the end of a season that fell short of a playoff push, but both played a full role in an entertaining game.

Tomas Kundratek eventually won it in the first minute of overtime, finally ending Medvescak’s resistance after the home team tied the game on four separate occasions.

Ilya Arkalov got two of those equalizers, cancelling out Michal Hlinka’s opener and Ziga Jeglic’s goal midway through the game. In between, Kyle Chipchura and Alexandre Giroux also traded markers.

At 3-3, it was already a lively affair, but the best came late on. Igor Musatov thought he’d won it for Slovan with a goal in 57thminute, but Samson Mahbod tied it up at 4-4 in the last minute, scoring past Justin Pogge after Barry Brust picked up a game misconduct rap. That took us to the extras, and Kundratek’s decisive contribution.

Andy Potts,
exclusive for

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