Finland faced Slovakia in the day’s big game, and Jokerit took the honors against Slovan thanks to a two-goal show from Sakari Manninen. Vityaz moved back into the playoff places in the Western Conference, moving above Dinamo Riga despite losing to Dinamo Minsk in overtime.
Sakari Manninen has a taste for playing against Slovan. When he suited up for Jokerit in Bratislava earlier this season, the Finnish forward scored twice and added two assists in a 5-3 win. Fast forward to December, and he scored two more in Helsinki.
Today, that was enough to set up a 3-0 verdict and maintain Jokerit’s position ahead of Lokomotiv in third place in the Western Conference. It also moved Manninen to 29 (11+18) points for the season. The 26-year-old opened the scoring in the 13th minute and added a second in the 33rd, converting a 5-on-3 power play. Alex Grant wrapped it up with an empty-netter in the 58th minute.
But Manninen wasn’t the only key player for the Finns. Goalie Ryan Zapolski was something of a wall between the piping, collecting his second shut-out of the season after stopping 22 shots. For Slovan, meanwhile, problems continue. This was a seventh straight loss for Vladimir Orszagh’s team and the bigger picture shows just two victories and one overtime loss in the last 16 outings.
For the second game running, Vityaz clawed back a two-goal deficit in the third period and took the game to overtime before losing out in a shoot-out. The point from today’s tie lifts the Moscow Region team back into the playoff bracket ahead of Dinamo Riga.
For Minsk, looking to move off the foot of the Western Conference table, this was almost a missed opportunity. The visitor jumped to an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Jonathon Blum and Patrick Wiercioch in the first seven minutes. Marek Hrivik got one back for Vityaz right before the intermission, but Dmitry Buinitsky restored that two-goal cushion in the second session.
Vityaz, though, is used to recoveries in the closing stages. The home team scored twice in two minutes to tie this one up, with Alexander Semin’s power play goal reducing the deficit before Bogdan Potekhin made it 3-3 with his first goal since arriving from Amur. That took the host to overtime for the second time in three days, but there was no winner on the way. Instead the game went to a shoot-out before Denis Kazionov potted the points for Dinamo and put the visitor back level with Severstal at the foot of the Conference.