The early game on Thursday was a crucial playoff battle in both Conferences – and both teams had something to celebrate after Amur’s clash with Spartak went to overtime. The home team won it on a Tomas Zohorna goal, moving five points clear of the chasing pack in the race for the top eight in the East. Spartak is four clear in the West. Jokerit’s 4-1 victory at Vityaz tightens the Finns’ grip on third in the West.
Amur won its fourth game in a row thanks to Tomas Zohorna’s overtime effort, and now enjoys a five-point cushion over ninth-placed Sibir. There are further grounds for Far Eastern optimism about a return to playoff action: the Khabarovsk team has played two games fewer than its nearest rivals and is on an extended run of impressive form.
This game, which was equally important for Spartak’s hopes of a top eight finish in the West, made fans wait a long time before seeing a goal. Amur was on top in the first period, testing Nikita Bespalov 20 times without finding the net. The middle frame saw the roles reversed to some extent, with Juha Metsola doing well to help kill a 3-on-5 situation for the host.
The breakthrough finally arrived in the 53rd minute when Vladislav Ushenin gave Amur the lead. The forward’s 15th goal of the season drew him level with Alexei Byvaltsev as the club’s leading goal scorer, but it was not enough for victory: Ben Maxwell quickly put Spartak level. The decisive moment came two minutes into overtime, when Zohorna found himself all alone in front of Bespalov and applied the finish. Spartak’s point moves it level with Sochi, and opens a four-point gap over the chasing pack.
Jokerit tightened its grip on third place in the West after coming from behind to win at Vityaz.
The home team, with its playoff prospects hanging in the balance as it looks to erode a 14-point gap to eighth-placed Spartak, made a great start when Roman Horak opened the scoring after 78 seconds. That lead remained intact at the end of a first period in which both goalies were kept busy but neither side could change the scoreline.
Jokerit drew level early in the middle frame. Oliver Lauridsen got the goal, beating Igor Saprykin with a shot that went in off the posts. Then, in the final period the visitor took control. Tommi Huhtala gave the Finns the lead seconds after the intermission before Jesse Joensuu doubled the advantage midway through the session. Marko Anttila’s shorthanded goal five minutes from time secured the win.