Andy Potts,
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Ak Bars secured top spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to a victory at home to Torpedo, while its closest rival, Neftekhimik, stumbled against Lada. Wins for Amur and Sibir put them one step away from freezing Avangard out of the playoffs, while Severstal’s win at CSKA put pressure on Spartak and Dynamo Moscow in the West. SKA’s rested its Olympic stars in Helsinki, and went down to defeat at Jokerit.

Litovchenko double sets up Amur’s win

Amur Khabarovsk 5 Admiral Vladivostok 3 (3-1, 0-1, 2-1)

Amur is just one step away from only its second ever KHL playoff appearance after picking up a derby win against Admiral.

The Khabarovsk men named four players who had returned from Olympic action in Korea – Czech trio Jan Kolar, Michal Jordan and Tomas Zohorna, plus Finnish goalie Juha Metsola – but didn’t take long to shake off any Olympic hangover.

True, Admiral opened the scoring after 36 seconds when Vadim Pereskokov scored on Metsola, but Vladislav Ushenin and Maxim Kondratyev turned the game around before the five-minute mark. Vyacheslav Litovchenko increased the lead before the first intermission, potting Amur’s second power play goal of the night.

And it was Litvinenko who broke a 3-3 tie after Pavel Makhanovsky and Denis Vikharev hauled the visitor back onto level terms. Litovchenko claimed his second PP marker in the 53rd minute, before Alexei Byvaltsev wrapped it up with an empty-net goal. Amur remains eighth in the East, two points ahead of ninth-placed Avangard.

Photo: 27.02.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Amur (Khabarovsk) - Admiral (Vladivostok)

Shoot-out loss leaves Avangard on the brink

Avangard Omsk 1 Sibir Novosibirk 2 SO (0-0, 1-1, 0-0, 0-0, 0-1)

Alexander Bergstrom’s shoot-out winner gave Sibir a vital boost in the race for the Eastern playoffs.

Going into the game, just one point separated these Siberian rivals, with the visitor having the edge. Victory, even by the narrowest of margins, means that Vladimir Yurzinov’s team can wrap up a top-eight finish by beating Traktor on Thursday as the regular season comes to an end. Avangard, for so long the leader in the Chernyshev Division, must beat Barys and hope other results go its way.

This game, with so much at stake, proved cagey. Just two goals in regulation, scored a minute apart at the midpoint of the game, took us to overtime. Stepan Sannikov opened the scoring for Sibir, but Yegor Martynov tied it up almost immediately. Avangard created more but could not find a winner; the shoot-out saw Alexander Salak impress before Bergstrom won it.

Photo: 27.02.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Avangard (Omsk region) - Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)

Playoff place for Salavat Yulaev

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3 HC Sochi 1 (1-0, 1-1, 1-0)

Salavat Yulaev secured its playoff place with a straightforward win over Sochi, fired by two goals from returning Olympians.

Sweden’s Linus Omark opened the scoring on a first-period power play, but Sochi hit back to tie it up early in the second through Yegor Morozov. Joonas Kemppainen made it 2-1, off an assist from his Finnish international colleague Teemu Hartikainen to keep the home team in front at the second intermission.

Vladimir Tkachyov added a third early in the final frame as Salavat Yulaev remained three points clear at the top of the Chernyshev Division. Sochi, already assured of a top-eight finish in the West, rested Olympic bronze medallist Eric O’Dell for this one.

Polygalov’s pair lifts Traktor

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 1 Traktor Chelyabinsk 3 (0-1, 0-0, 1-2)

Traktor climbs to fourth in the Eastern Conference, leaping ahead of Avto with this win.

Two third-period goals from Igor Polygalov made the difference here. Maxim Yakutsenya put Traktor ahead in the first period, and after a scoreless middle stanza, Polygalov doubled the lead in the 46th minute.

However, Denis Kulyash hit back almost immediately for the Motormen, keeping the game in the balance until Polygalov struck again with seven minutes left to settle the outcome.

Lee makes scoring return after Olympics

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4 Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk 0 (0-0, 3-0, 1-0)

Metallurg managed without Olympic champions Vasily Koshechkin and Sergei Mozyakin, overpowering Ugra to ensure a playoff place.

After a goalless first frame, the home team took control thanks to two goals from Denis Kazionov before Chris Lee added a third. Lee, a bronze medallist in PyeongChang, was one of four Olympians to play for Magnitka; Ugra included Finnish forward Veli-Matti Savinainen, who also played in Korea.

A shorthanded goal from Andrei Chibisov completed the scoring early in the third. Ilya Samsonov had 35 saves for his shut-out.

Potapov treble seals Eastern title

Ak Bars Kazan 5 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 (1-0, 3-2, 1-0)

Ak Bars guaranteed top spot in the Eastern Conference with victory over Torpedo, and Alexei Potapov wrapped up the win with a hat-trick against his former club.

Potapov’s first of the game came in the 29th minute and gave his team a 3-0 lead following earlier efforts from Stanislav Galiyev and Yaroslav Kosov. But Torpedo hit back: Sergei Kostitsyn and Vladimir Galuzin scored twice in four minutes to make it a one-goal game.

But Potapov was on hand to ensure there was no way back for the visitor. He made it 4-2 late in the second period and added another in the closing minutes. All three of the 28-year-old’s goals were scored on the power play.

Lada ends Neftekhimik’s hopes of top spot

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 0 Lada Togliatti 4 (0-2, 0-0, 0-2)

Lada climbed off the foot of the Eastern Conference with a comfortable victory over high-flying Neftekhimik.

Alexander Lazushin starred for the visitor with 36 saves as the home team saw its chance of winning the Eastern Conference evaporate. At the other end, Chay Genoway picked up two assists on his return from Olympic action with Canada, providing helpers on first-period scores for Alexander Streltsov and Igor Skorokhodov.

There was no scoring in the second frame, but Georgy Belousov’s power play goal midway through the third put the result beyond question. Vasily Streltsov finished the scoring late on.

Late show earns Vityaz the win

Vityaz Moscow Region 5 Slovan Bratislava 3 (0-2, 3-0, 2-1)

These two teams had nothing much to play for but served up an entertaining game decided in the last two minutes.

Slovan started better, with Andrej Stastny and Colby Genoway giving the visitor a 2-0 lead in the first period. However, Vityaz replied with three of its own in the second, when Vojtech Mozik, Nikita Dvurechensky and Borna Rendulic all found the net.

Michal Sersen tied it up for the Slovaks early in the third, and overtime was looming when Artyom Shvets-Rogovoi put Vityaz ahead once again. Roman Horak’s empty-netter wrapped it up.

Second-period pair earns Minsk the verdict

Dinamo Minsk 5 Dinamo Riga 3 (2-2, 2-0, 1-1)

Two goals in 49 seconds early in the second period proved decisive in this battles of the Dinamos.

The game was tied at 2-2 after a lively first period – which included two goals in the first minute as Andrei Stepanov cancelled out a Miks Indrasis opener. But Charles Linglet and Marc-Andre Gragnani got that quickfire pair to put the home team in control, and that two-goal margin endured until the end.

The teams traded further goals in the first, with Sergei Drozd extending the home advantage before Brandon McMillan got a late consolation for the Latvians. The result pushes Riga back to the foot of the overall KHL table.

SKA rests Olympic stars, Jokerit claims the win

Jokerit Helsinki 5 SKA St. Petersburg 3 (1-2, 2-0, 2-1)

SKA rested its Olympic champions – and a youthful roster could not match Jokerit.

With Oleg Znarok and his team celebrating a hard-fought triumph in Korea barely 48 hours before this game, it was essential to shuffle the pack for SKA – and at first, it seemed the rest of the roster might be on course to take the win. Viktor Tikhonov opened the scoring and Patrik Hersley – home more quickly from Korea after Sweden’s quarter-final loss to Germany – added a second.

But Jokerit hit back. Peter Regin reduced the arrears in the first period, Eeli Tolvanen tied it up early in the second. Jesse Joensuu gave the Finns the lead on the power play midway through the game, but SKA hit back at the start of the third through Jarno Koskiranta.

The decisive goal came in the 42nd minute, when Brian O’Neill scored off Olli Palola’s feed to make it 4-3; Regin put his second of the night into an empty net to wrap up the win. Jokerit secures third place in the West.

Lokomotiv threatens to derail Spartak’s playoff push

Spartak Moscow 0 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2 (0-0, 0-1, 0-1)

Spartak’s hopes of clinching a return to playoff action took a big hit after it was shut out by Alexei Murygin and lost at home to Lokomotiv.

Murygin made 28 saves to frustrate Spartak, which must now win a do-or-die derby against Dynamo on Thursday to guarantee a playoff spot this season.

Lokomotiv, already assured of fourth place in the West, took the points thanks to Pavel Kraskovsky’s power play goal midway through the second period. Ilya Lyubushkin added a second in the 53rd minute.

Photo: 27.02.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Spartak (Moscow) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

Severstal keeps its dream alive

CSKA Moscow 1 Severstal Cherepovets 4 (1-0, 0-2, 0-2)

A weakened CSKA team featuring just one of Russia’s Olympic party went down to a heavy defeat as Severstal moved back into a playoff place.

Alexei Marchenko, a defenseman used sparingly in Korea, was the only international to feature for the home team in this game. But the host took the lead after seven minutes after Sergei Shumakov set up Maxim Shalunov for the opening goal.

After that, though, it was all about Severstal. Matej Stransky converted a power play chance early in the second, then Yury Trubachyov made it 2-1 midway through the game. The coup-de-grace came late in the play: Trubachyov added his second of the night before Alexander Mereskin finished it off.

Severstal moves ahead of Dynamo into eighth place and can secure a playoff place with victory in its final game on Thursday. However, the next opponent is runaway leader SKA; the playoff picture may yet be shaped by the availability of Petersburg’s Olympic stars for that game.

Photo: 27.02.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. CSKA (Moscow) - Severstal (Cherepovets)

Andy Potts,
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