Andy Potts,
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Neftekhimik’s comeback win over Jokerit secured a playoff spot for Andrei Nazarov’s team – just the second in the Eastern Conference to do it. But Barys learned that it will not feature in post season despite a win over Lada – Sibir’s success over Avtomobilist leaves the Kazakhs with too much to do. Salavat Yulaev hit three goals in 64 seconds to sink Slovan and return to the top of the Eastern Conference, and there were wins for CSKA and Vityaz.

Krasikov blanks Avtomobilist

Sibir Novosibirsk 3 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 0 (2-0, 1-0, 0-0)

Sibir took a big step towards securing its playoff place thanks to a shut-out victory over Avtomobilist.

After Amur’s defeat at SKA yesterday, Sibir had the chance to open a four-point gap over its closest rival for eighth place – and made no mistake. Early goals from Vladimir Pervushin and Ivan Vereshchagin put the home team 2-0 up inside 10 minutes, and a solid defensive display kept Avto at arm’s length throughout the game. The visitor managed just 18 shots at Alexei Krasikov, who posted his third shut-out of the season.

Jonas Enlund added a third goal for Sibir early in the second period, and Vladimir Yurzinov’s team comfortably saw out the victory to make it 11 wins from its last 13 games under the guidance of the incoming head coach. That form means it’s now a two-way fight for the last playoff place between Sibir and Amur. However, Sibir’s four-point advantage is not impregnable – Amur has two games in hand on its rival.

Avtomobilist missed its chance to confirm its playoff place, and also lost forward Yegor Milovzorov was a broken rib to round off an unhappy day.

Barys wins, but playoff hopes end

Barys Astana 4 Lada Togliatti 3 (1-0, 1-1, 2-2)

Two goals from Nigel Dawes saw Barys to victory over Lada, but the result from Novosibirsk confirmed that the team would miss out on a playoff place. With three games left to play, Barys is 12 points adrift of eighth-placed Sibir.

Dawes wasted no time in opening the scoring in this game, beating Alexander Lazushin after 54 seconds to convert the first power play chance of the day. But that fast start did not herald a Barys procession: Lada hung tough, and never allowed the home team to run away with the game.

It was still 1-0 at the first intermission, and the teams traded goals regularly in the rest of the game. Alexander Streltsov brough Lada level in the second period, only for Dawes to turn provider on another power play as Kevin Dallman restored the home team’s lead. In the final frame, Lada tied the game up twice more on goals from Vladimir Zhuravlyov and Kirill Kapustin. However, Roman Starchenko got a third for Barys and Dawes delivered the winning goal with three minutes to play.

Salavat returns to Chernyshev summit

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 5 Slovan Bratislava 3 (1-1, 3-0, 1-2)

Salavat Yulaev is back on top of the Chernyshev Division after a 5-3 victory over Slovan. The visitor, long eliminated from the playoff picture, had enjoyed impressive wins over Ak Bars and Metallurg in recent games, but could not live with the Ufa offense in this afternoon’s second period.

The decisive action came in a 64-second blast in the middle frame, as Salavat scored three quick-fire goals to seize control of the game. Linus Omark got the first on 27:45, despite Slovan’s claims that goalie Jakub Stepanek was impeded. Perhaps the visitor was still mulling over its grievances when Georgy Busarov added another goal within a minute, and it took just 13 seconds for the home team to make it 4-1 as Vladimir Tkachyov potted his second of the game. Earlier, the former Admiral man had cancelled out Ryan Garbutt’s opener for Slovan.

Slovan rallied in the third, and threatened a fight back as goals from Zach Boychuk and Juraj Mikus made it a one-goal game going into the closing stages. But Teemu Hartikainen finished the job when he made it 5-3 with five minutes to play.

Neftekhimik secures playoff spot

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 3 Jokerit Helsinki 2 (0-2, 1-0, 2-0)

Neftekhimik recovered from a poor start to take the win at home to Jokerit – and confirm its place in the playoffs.

The visitor, looking to snap a two-game losing sequence, began at a high tempo. John Norman’s power play goal opened the scoring inside two minutes, and Niklas Jensen doubled the lead with seven minutes gone.

But Neftekhimik is now over its recent blip and still has designs on topping the Eastern Conference. Its fightback here demonstrated why those dreams are still alive. Dennis Everberg halved the deficit in the middle frame, and the third period saw Dan Sexton tie it up on the power play before assisting on Robin Hanzl’s gamewinner. Neftekhimik moves to 91 points, sure of a playoff place and just three points shy of Conference leader Ak Bars.

Saprykin stymies Ak Bars

Ak Bars Kazan 0 Vityaz Moscow Region 2 (0-0, 0-1, 0-1)

Valery Belov enjoyed a winning return to Kazan with his Vityaz team – and goalie Igor Saprykin caught the eye with 36 saves.

Saprykin frustrated the home offense from start to finish, backstopping his team to a morale-boosting victory. Although Vityaz has little to play for with its post-season prospects over, the chance to put one over a renowned opponent brought out the best in the team.

It was, inevitably, a display dominated by defense. Aside from Saprykin’s efforts, the visitor blocked 14 shots in a gritty display. But, when the chances came, Vityaz was ready. Two goals either side of the second intermission gave Belov’s boys the verdict as Ak Bars ran into penalty trouble: Vojtech Mozik converted a 5-on-3 power play late in the second, then Alexei Makeyev made it 2-0 six seconds into the final frame. Saprykin was beaten with 10 minutes to go, but the video official ruled out the effort for goalie interference.

Photo: 21.01.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Vityaz (Moscow Region)

CSKA marches to victory

HC Sochi 1 CSKA Moscow 3 (0-1, 1-2, 0-0)

This was another game between two teams whose thoughts were likely elsewhere. Sochi, secure in the playoff places as of Friday, can do little more than jostle with Torpedo for fifth place. CSKA, likely to provide a sizeable tranche of Russia’s Olympic roster, arrived at the home of the 2014 Games with at least half an eye on next month’s 2018 edition.

That didn’t stop the Army Men from producing an imposing display here, dominating possession and territory for much of the game. Maxim Shalunov opened the scoring late in the first session when he was sent clean through to meet Dmitry Shikin in the home net and beat the goalie with a backhand finish.

Mat Robinson doubled that advantage, but Sochi hit back within 30 seconds when Yegor Dugin’s pass from behind the net was rifled home by Evgeny Lapenkov. The game was decided at the halfway stage, when Geoff Platt got a decisive touch on Mikhail Naumenkov’s shot from the blue line to give CSKA a 3-1 lead that it never relinquished.

Andy Potts,
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Related clubs

Avtomobilist (Ekaterinburg) Avtomobilist (Ekaterinburg)
Ak Bars (Kazan) Ak Bars (Kazan)
Barys (Nur-Sultan) Barys (Nur-Sultan)
Vityaz (Moscow Region) Vityaz (Moscow Region)
Jokerit (Helsinki) Jokerit (Helsinki)
Lada (Togliatti) Lada (Togliatti)
Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk) Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)
Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)
Sibir (Novosibirsk Region) Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)
Slovan (Bratislava) Slovan (Bratislava)
HC Sochi (Sochi) HC Sochi (Sochi)
CSKA (Moscow) CSKA (Moscow)
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