Wednesday saw two of the playoff chasing teams strengthen their prospects of reaching post season. Traktor earned a 1-0 victory over Ak Bars to move four points clear of ninth-placed Kunlun in the Eastern Conference, while Vityaz took an overtime verdict at Avangard to open a three-point gap in the West. However, Neftekhimik missed the chance to close on Red Star when it suffered a shoot-out loss at Spartak.
Goalkeeper Sudnitsin frustrated the visiting forwards all evening, making 30 saves to collect his second shut-out of the season. Some of his best work came late in the second period, when Ak Bars stepped up its offense after both teams made a cautious start to the game. Late on he also produced a game-saver to deny Andrei Markov from the blue line.
The only goal went to Stoa after Ak Bars ran into penalty trouble. Rob Klinkhammer and Artyom Lukoyanov followed each other into the box and that two-man advantage enabled Traktor to pile up the pressure on Vladislav Podyapolsky’s net. In the end, Stoa got the all-important finish, stuffing home the rebound after a Christian Thomas shot rebounded off the post.
Vityaz tightened its grip on a playoff spot after edging past Avangard in overtime. The visitor avenged a 0-6 drubbing in Podolsk at the start of the season to move away from Dinamo Riga in the race for the top eight.
In the first period, though, it seemed that Avangard could be on course for another comfortable victory. The home team went to the intermission 1-0 up thanks to a Sergei Shumakov power play goal, but the balance of play suggested the advantage could have been greater. Vityaz made Avangard pay for its failure to cash in, scoring twice in the second period. Denis Kokarev tied it up with a short-handed goal midway through the session, then Michal Repik notched his first for the club on the power play.
There were barely two minutes left when Viktor Stalberg tied it up, getting the game’s first equal strength goal into the bargain as Avangard again tightened the screws on Joni Ortio’s net. But it took Vityaz just 19 seconds to win it in overtime when Artyom Shvets-Rogovoi potted the decider with Kokarev collecting an assist.
Neftekhimik missed the chance to record back-to-back wins after going down in a shoot-out at Spartak. Home goalie Alexander Trushkov won all four duels with the visiting forwards, while Ilya Zubov and Maxim Trunyov found the Neftekhimik net to snap a 2-2 tie.
The home team led twice in regulation thanks to a pair of power play goals. First, Andrei Kuteikin converted the first PP of the game, only for Ildar Shiksatdarov to tie it up with a breakaway goal in the second period. The third frame brought two goals separated by 47 seconds. Martins Karsums restored Spartak’s lead, but the home time took a penalty moments later and Adam Polasek swiftly tied the scores once again.
Prior to the game, Spartak observed a minute’s silence in memory of Evgeny Zimin, a double Olympic champion and Red-and-White legend. His son, Evgeny Jr, performed the ceremonial puck drop.