A victory for Severstal and a loss for Spartak leaves three teams separated by a single point in the race for the Western Conference playoffs. Ak Bars returns to the top of the East, and Salavat Yulaev bounced back with a win at Dinamo Riga.
Sochi closed the gap on fifth-placed Torpedo with this shoot-out victory, as both teams looked to keep some distance between themselves and the battle for the top eight.
The visitor made a flying start, opening the scoring through a Sean Collins goal on 102 seconds. Torpedo took the first penalty of the game, and was duly punished. However, the home team had a golden chance to level the scores in the eighth minute when it got a 5-on-3 power play for fully two minutes. Sochi dug in, kept Torpedo at bay, and reached the first intermission with its lead intact.
The penalties kept coming, though, and Gennady Stolyarov drew Torpedo level with a power play goal shortly after the midway mark. Then Stepan Zakharchuk incurred the wrath of the officials and ended up ejected from the game for boarding in the last minute of the second period.
Despite the major penalty, Sochi was unable to take advantage and the third stanza was goalless and relatively short of action around the nets. In the end, it took a shoot-out to separate the teams, and Jyrki Jokipakka claimed the winner for the visitor.
Two goals from Daniil Vovchenko helped lift Severstal to within a point of eighth-placed Dynamo Moscow – and the Steelmen have two games in hand on the team from the capital.
Saturday’s victory at home to Severstal was built on a powerful first period. Pavel Chernov opened the scoring early on, Vovchenko potted his first after 10 minutes and Matej Stransky added a third. Young prospect Igor Geraskin was instrumental in Vovchenko’s goal, leading the rush into the Neftekhimik zone.
Vovchenko extended the lead late in the fourth, slotting home on the backhand from a tight angle, and the outcome looked clear. Neftekhimik attempted a fightback in the third, with Emil Galimov scoring during a 5-on-3 power play to reduce the arrears and Ilya Arkalov making it 2-4 with four minutes to play. But an empty-net effort from Maxim Rybin ensured that Severstal took the verdict.
Ak Bars moved back to the top of the Eastern Conference after outlasting Spartak.
But Spartak, looking to move clear of Dynamo and Severstal in that playoff race, hit back. The home side had the better of the second frame, and reduced the deficit thanks to a Viktor Komarov goal. Then, right at the start of the third, Lukas Radil tied it up with a power play goal.
Ak Bars looked for a quick response, and almost found it when Jiri Sekac had a penalty shot, but he was unable to beat Nikita Bespalov. However, the winning goal arrived soon after when Justin Azevedo scored his first since returning from injury.
Zakhar Arzamastsev’s goal gave Salavat Yulaev an overtime win at Dinamo Riga, helping his team bounce back from defeat at Spartak to record a fifth victory in six games.
The game got off to a lively start, with Nikita Jevpalovs putting Dinamo ahead before Maxim Goncharov tied it up inside the first six minutes. The home team continued to enjoy more of the attacking play, but could not make a further breakthrough before the intermission.
In the middle frame, Salavat Yulaev proved more clinical with its chances, despite once again being outshot by the host. Enver Lisin and Teemu Hartikainen both found the target, either side of Brandon McMillan’s power play goal, as the visitor went into the second break with a lead.
A defeat in regulation time would end even a theoretical chance of Dinamo making the playoffs, and while there is little likelihood of the Latvians storming into the top eight, the team was determined to keep the dream alive for as long as possible. A Mikelis Redlihs leveller five minutes before the end took the game to overtime and secured Dinamo a bonus point, but could not clinch the victory.