Ak Bars head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov marked his 1,100th game behind the bench with an emphatic 5-1 victory over Sochi in Saturday’s big game. Elsewhere, Spartak won 3-1 at Torpedo to inflict a fifth successive loss on the host, while Neftekhimik’s Finns edged Helsinki’s Jokerit in overtime.
Ak Bars had never previously won a home game against HC Sochi – a statistical anomaly that dates back to the visitor’s KHL debut back in the 2014-15 season. Today, though, the Gagarin Cup holder put the record straight in emphatic fashion as Zinetula Bilyaletdinov celebrated his 1,100th game behind the bench. The success also made it nine wins from 11 games for Ak Bars, while Sochi suffered a fourth loss in six.
The damage was done in the first period by Justin Azevedo and Rob Klinkhammer. The former opened the scoring in the 11th minute then added an assist on Klinkhammer’s power play goal. Robert Rosen gave Sochi a glimmer of hope at the start of the middle frame, but two goals in two minutes midway through the session took the game out of reach. Danis Zaripov scored one and had an assist on the other as Vladimir Tkachyov made it 4-1. Stanislav Galiyev also had two assists.
The third period saw Jiri Sekac add a goal to his pair of first-period assists, making it 5-1 and chasing Dmitry Shikin from the Sochi net. That brought Konstantin Barulin into the game for the last 14 minutes against his former club.
An overtime loss for Jokerit saw the Finnish team lose ground on the leaders in the Western Conference. Victory would have moved the Finns level on points with second-placed SKA, but instead there is a one-point deficit to make up.
And that’s all down to the Finns of Neftekhimik. Juuso Puustinen got the decisive goal here, off an assist from Mikael Ruohomaa, three minutes into the extras. Earlier, the teams had tied 1-1 in regulation. Andrej Nestrasil put Neftekhimik up in the first frame before Geoff Platt levelled early in the second.
Neftekhimik’s win gives it a three-point cushion in the eighth and final playoff place in the East. Kunlun Red Star continues to chase the top eight.
Two teams struggling for form met in Nizhny Novgorod – and it was Spartak that recorded only its second win in seven games while condemning Torpedo to a fifth consecutive loss.
Yaroslav Kosov opened the scoring in the eighth minute, profiting from lax defense by the host to break out one-on-one and beat Denis Kostin in the Torpedo net. Then came an incident-packed Spartak power play after Dmitry Semin received a hooking minor. Torpedo tied the scores with a short-handed goal from Pavel Makarenko before Mikhail Grigoryev converted the power play to restore the visitor’s lead.
It stayed 2-1 until the closing stages when Kaspars Daugavins added to his earlier assist and made it 3-1 against his former club.