Andy Potts,
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League leader SKA was confirmed as the winner of the Bobrov Division thanks to a comfortable victory at Lada, followed by Jokerit's overtime loss at home to Magnitogorsk. The defending champion can now only be overtaken by CSKA in the race to top the regular season table. Elsewhere, Andrei Loktionov got a last-minute equalizer and an overtime winner for Lokomotiv at home to Dynamo. There were plenty of goals in the East, where Admiral won 5-4 against Avangard and Kunlun Red Star beat Sibir 7-4.

Amur stumbles as playoffs move into view

Amur Khabarovsk 1 Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk 2 (0-0, 0-2, 1-0)

Amur, whose strong run of form since the fall had propelled the team to the brink of a rare appearance in the playoffs, is suddenly in danger of stumbling at the worst possible moment.

Today’s loss against Ugra was its third home defeat in a row, and the team blew a chance to return to the top eight ahead of Sibir when it failed to defeat an opponent already out of playoff contention.

It all went wrong for Amur in the second period, when it gave up two unanswered goals. Veli-Matti Savinainen and Maxim Pestushko did the damage, and Vyacheslav Ushenin’s 46th-minute reply was not enough to revive the home team’s hopes.

Photo: 07.01.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Amur (Khabarovsk) - Yugra (Khanty-Mansiysk)

Admiral wins in high-scoring clash

Admiral Vladivostok 5 Avangard Omsk 4 (4-1, 0-1, 1-2)

For the third game running, Avangard scored four. Unfortunately for German Titov’s team, after two shut-outs, it conceded five in Vladivostok.

However, the final score of 5-4 represented something of a recovery for the Chernyshev Division leader after Admiral powered into a four-goal lead in the opening period. Maxim Kazakov set the tone after 37 seconds, Denis Vikharev doubled the advantage five minutes later and two goals in a minute from Vladimir Butuzov and Andrei Alexeyev put the home team in charge.

Ilya Khokhlov got one back for Avangard before the first intermission, but it wasn’t until Yegor Martynov’s double made it a one-goal game that the home team moved forward again. An Avangard penalty disrupted the visitor’s momentum and Kirill Voronin took advantage to give Admiral some vital breathing space. Ilya Mikheyev scored for the third consecutive game to keep it tense in the closing stages, but Admiral held out to claim its first victory under Andrei Razin.

Yurzinov struggles against former club

Kunlun Red Star 7 Sibir Novosibirsk 4 (1-1, 2-2, 4-1)

Vladimir Yurzinov had an unhappy return to China as his Sibir team suffered a high-scoring loss to Red Star.

The home team has struggled for goals for much of this season, but fired in seven today to record an encouraging victory in a sometimes difficult season. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the home team – two goals in 17 seconds early in the second period saw Sibir open a 3-1 lead thanks to Stepan Sannikov and Alexander Sharov, but the host hit back to tie the game through Brandon Yip and Gilbert Brule.

Then, at the start of the third, Red Star got two quick goals of its own. Arturs Kulda and Cory Kane set up a winning advantage for the host and not even a response from Jonas Enlund, scoring for Sibir against his former club, could stop the Chinese team after that. Lucas Lessio and a second for Brule added some gloss to the final scoreline.

Photo: 07.01.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) - Dynamo (Moscow)

Polygalov double keeps Avto off the top

Traktor Chelyabinsk 5 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 2 (0-0, 1-1, 4-1)

Traktor denied Avto a return to the top of the Eastern Conference with a late blitz to settle this game.

For 40 minutes the teams were deadlocked: a goalless opening frame, then the second period brought one goal apiece from Linus Videll and Anatoly Golyshev. Even the early stages of the third produced little to separate the teams. Paul Szczechura quickly gave Traktor the lead, but Nikita Tryamkin tied it up in the 50th minute.

The last 10 minutes, though, were all about Traktor – and especially about Igor Polygalov. He put the home team in front when he collected Maxim Yakutsenya’s pass and beat Jakub Kovar short side. Alexander Chernikov increased the lead on a 3-on-2 breakout before Polygalov potted another in the closing minutes to secure the win.

Datsyuk & Co torment Lada

Lada Togliatti 0 SKA St. Petersburg 5 (0-0, 0-2, 0-3)

Four points from Pavel Datsyuk and three apiece from Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrick Thoresen helped SKA to a convincing victory over Lada.

The first period saw the home team put up a brave fight against the league leader, outshooting the visitor but failing to break the deadlock. Then, beginning the middle frame short-handed, Lada fell behind. Datsyuk and Kovalchuk combined to set up a power play goal for Slava Voynov and the game tilted decisively in SKA’s favor. Another goal on the PP saw Datsyuk get a helper as Patrick Thoresen scored, then seconds into the third period the Norwegian worked with Datsyuk once again as Kovalchuk made it 3-0.

Maxim Karpov made it 4-0 with the only goal that didn’t involve Datsyuk, but the magic man had the final say as SKA got its third power play goal of the night late on. Kovalchuk and Thoresen were among the assistants to wrap up a convincing road win. Lada’s loss ends its theoretical hopes of reaching the playoffs.

Loktionov saves Lokomotiv

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2 Dynamo Moscow 1 OT (0-1, 0-0, 1-0, 1-0)

Andrei Loktionov broke Dynamo hearts with two late, late goals to rescue Lokomotiv.

The Blue-and-Whites led all the way from the second minute after Yakov Rylov opened the scoring just 95 seconds into the action. After that it was a battle between Loko’s forwards and visiting goalie Alexander Yeryomenko … and it looked like the Dynamo man was about to win that clash. He made 47 saves in regulation time, only to be beaten in the final minute by Loktionov.

Loktionov tied it up with less than 30 seconds left, firing home into an unguarded corner of the net after a scramble in front of the Dynamo net. Then, as the game went into overtime, the 27-year-old forward claimed his first double of the season to hand Loko the win. Dynamo missed the chance to build a four-point gap over ninth-placed Severstal, and is just two points clear of the playoff cut-off point.

Jokerit loss hands SKA top spot in Bobrov Division

Jokerit Helsinki 1 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2 OT (0-0, 0-1, 1-0, 0-1)

SKA was confirmed as the winner of the Bobrov Division when its 5-0 victory at Lada was followed by Jokerit’s failure to beat Magnitka in Helsinki. However, the home team’s point from this game was enough to mathematically guarantee its playoff place.

The game was fairly even for the first half-hour, but Metallurg went ahead thanks to a Denis Kokarev goal at the midway stage. Jokerit responded with a lively start to the third period, and got its reward thanks to a Steve Moses goal in the 45th minute.

There was no further scoring in regulation, but in overtime Niklas Jensen put the puck in the net for Jokerit only to be handed a misconduct penalty for playing on after an offside call. The game continued in 3-on-3 play, and Matt Ellison scored the winner for Magnitka in the 63rd minute.

Platt’s double defeats Slovan

Slovan Bratislava 0 CSKA Moscow 3 (0-2, 0-0, 0-1)

Two goals from Geoff Platt helped CSKA to a comfortable road win at Slovan, and maintained the pressure on SKA at the top of the KHL table.

The Moscow team has been top dog in the regular season for the last three years, and is still in with a chance of making it four in a row after keeping pace with SKA throughout a blistering campaign for both Army clubs.

Slovan, stuck in the lower reaches of the Western Conference, never really troubled the visitor in this game, managing just 15 shots on target throughout. Igor Ozhiganov opened the scoring in the fifth minute for CSKA before Platt doubled the lead in the first period. And Platt added a power play goal in the third to keep his team eight points behind SKA.

Andy Potts,
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