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Two more teams secured a place in the playoffs. Ak Bars got there without even playing: Red Star’s loss at home to Severstal ensured the defending champion cannot be caught. Avangard also made it, but in rather more fraught fashion after letting a 4-2 lead slip before beating Salavat Yulaev in a shoot-out. That 5-4 scoreline was repeated in Novosibirsk and Astana, with Sibir and Spartak coming out on top. SKA suffered a shock loss at home to Neftekhimik, CSKA’s 3-0 win over Metallurg means the Eastern Conference team must wait to secure its playoff berth. And Ilya Konovalov’s eighth shut-out of the season helped Lokomotiv move ahead of Jokerit into third place in the West.

Konovalov’s eighth shut-out

Amur Khabarovsk 0 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2 (0-1, 0-1, 0-0)

Goaltending wunderkind Ilya Konovalov produced his eighth shut-out of the season as Loko’s young guns climbed to third place in the Western Conference.

Photo: 15.01.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Amur (Khabarovsk) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

Konovalov wasn’t the only youngster to make an impact. Forward Grigory Denisenko, recently returned from helping Russia to World Junior bronze in Canada, potted his team’s second goal on a power play in the middle session. That was his first since the Worlds and added to Brandon Kozun’s opener in the first period.

The final frame saw Konovalov secure his shut-out; the 20-year-old made 26 saves to keep Amur at bay. The host suffered a second defeat since the appointment of new head coach Alexander Gulyavtsev, Lokomotiv improves to five wins from six games.

Jokerit fails to turn pressure into goals

Admiral Vladivostok 4 Jokerit Helsinki 1 (0-1, 1-0, 3-0)

Part of the reason for Loko’s rise to third place was Jokerit’s surprise failure to win in Vladivostok. The Finns suffered a surprise defeat against the struggling sailors, folding in the latter half of the game.

Initially, it all seemed to be going according to the script. Niklas Jensen put Jokerit ahead in the fourth minute. The Dane extended his productive streak to seven games but the visitor could not convert its control of the game into more goals.

Gradually, Admiral got back into contention. Vojtech Polak tied it up late in a second period littered with penalties then Konstantin Glazachev gave the host the lead with a power play goal early in the third. The game was still very much alive, but Jokerit still failed to find a way to goal and late in the play Sergei Konkov and Alexander Streltsov found the net to secure the home victory.

Severstal stays unbeaten in 2019

Kunlun Red Star 1 Severstal Cherepovets 4 (0-1, 1-2, 0-1)

Severstal continued its winning form this year with a convincing scoreline on the road in Shanghai. However, it took a fine performance from goalie Dominik Furch to subdue a spirited home team. The Czech made 38 saves to frustrate the host. Severstal’s fifth successive victory also ensured Ak Bars of a place in the playoffs; ninth-placed Red Star can no longer catch the defending champion.

At the other end, Evgeny Lapenkov opened the scoring midway through the first period before former Red Star defenseman Geoff Kinrade doubled the lead early in the second. Home captain Brandon Yip reduced the deficit with a power play goal late in the frame, scoring his eighth point in the last seven games.

However, Severstal restored a two-goal advantage almost immediately and held Kunlun at bay despite some heavy pressure in the third period. An empty net goal wrapped up the win for the visitor and robbed Red Star of the chance to close on eighth-placed Traktor.

Ignatovich settles a thriller in Novosibirsk

Sibir Novosibirsk 5 HC Sochi 4 (3-3, 1-1, 1-0)

The first of two high-scoring games in the East saw Sibir edge past Sochi by the odd goal in nine.

The opening stanza was explosive as the teams shared six goals and the lead changed hands three times. Sochi struck first but Sibir replied with two in 14 seconds from Dmitry Sayustov and Shane Prince. Eric O’Dell tied the scores and Jyrki Jokipakka restored the visitor’s lead, but it took just 16 seconds for Roman Savchenko to tie it up.

After the break, Martin Bakos put Sochi up once more, but from that point on it was all about Sibir. Jukka Peltola’s power play goal tied it up late in the second period then Maxim Ignatovich made it 5-4 with eight minutes to go.

Spartak rallies from 0-3

Barys Astana 4 Spartak Moscow 5 (3-2, 1-3, 0-0)

There was a similar scoreline in Astana, but the pattern of this game was rather different. Barys raced into a 3-0 lead, the scores were level by the 25-minute mark and Anatoly Nikontsev potted the winner before the second period was over.

The host could hardly have asked for a better start. Viktor Svedberg opened the scoring in the first minute then Matthew Frattin and Andre Petersson stretched the lead to 3-0 inside eight minutes. Spartak, though, found a quick response, scoring twice in less than a minute through Ilya Talaluyev and Nikontsev.

Another quickfire double early in the second saw Spartak in front but that lead lasted just 16 seconds before Anton Sagadeyev tied it up once more. Nikontsev’s shorthanded second came in the 36th minute, moments after Spartak survived a video review of a play in front of its own net. Given what had gone before, few could have expected that to be the end of the story. However, Spartak goalie Nikita Bespalov stopped 18 home attempts in the third to secure the win.

Avangard confirms a playoff place

Avangard Omsk 5 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 4 SO (0-1, 3-1, 1-2, 0-0, 1-0)

Avangard joined Avtomobilist and Ak Bars in the Eastern Conference playoffs – despite dropping a two-goal lead at home to Salavat Yulaev.

Photo: 15.01.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Avangard (Omsk) - Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)

The visitor mounted an improbable comeback from 2-4 down when Zakhar Arzamastsev and Anton Burdasov scored in the 58thminute to force overtime and, eventually, a shoot-out. That ended in victory for the home team thanks to David Desharnais, ensuring that Red Star cannot catch the Hawks.

Earlier, Arzamastsev had given Ufa a first-period lead but Desharnais and Taylor Beck turned the game around in the second period. Alexander Burmistrov quickly made it 2-2, only for Viktor Stalberg to restore the home lead late in the session. Kirill Semyonov made it 4-2 with seven minutes left but there was still drama to come.

Sorokin denies Magnitka, CSKA enjoys third successive shut-out

CSKA Moscow 3 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 0 (0-0, 2-0, 1-0)

CSKA strengthened its position at the top of the championship table while Metallurg missed the chance to guarantee a place in the playoffs.

Photo: 15.01.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. CSKA (Moscow) - Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

Another shut-out from Ilya Sorokin ended Magnitka’s eight-game winning streak with the youngster making 27 saves for his eighth blank of the season. CSKA has now denied its opponents in all three games since a 0-1 loss in Yaroslavl a week ago.

The scoring in this one came late. Mikhail Grigorenko broke the deadlock on a power play in the 36th minute after the teams had played out a close-fought encounter. And it wasn’t until the final moments that CSKA made the game safe: Linden Vey added a second in the 58th minute before Ivan Telegin’s empty netter wrapped it up.

Neftekhimik shocks SKA

SKA St. Petersburg 2 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 3 OT (2-1, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1)

SKA threw away a two-goal lead at home to Neftekhimik as Vyacheslav Butsayev enjoyed only his second victory as head coach of the visiting team.

The host made a fast start with goals from Sergei Plotnikov and Alexei Byvaltsev giving SKA a clear advantage after 10 minutes. But Andrej Nestrasil hit back almost immediately to keep Neftekhimik in contention and Emil Galimov tied it up early in the second period as the visitor began to pose more of a threat on offense.

The third session produced no further goals. SKA camped out in the Neftekhimik zone for long periods but the defense performed heroically to deny the Army Men good looks at Fyodor Korotayev’s net. In overtime, Byvaltsev took a penalty and Pavel Padakin converted the power play to give Neftekhimik an unexpected boost to its flagging playoff hopes.

Vityaz climbs to seventh

Dinamo Minsk 2 Vityaz Moscow Region 3 OT (0-1, 2-1, 0-0, 0-1)

Vityaz remains well on course for a playoff place after an overtime win in Minsk lifted Valery Belov’s team to seventh in the West.

Nikolai Stasenko got the decisive goal in the fourth minute of the extras to lift Vityaz above HC Sochi. His strike snapped a 2-2 tie.

The visitor opened the scoring in this game late in the first period when Alexei Makeyev found the net. However, Dinamo hit back in the second to lead on goals from Teemu Pulkkinen and Ilya Litvinov two minutes apart. Artyom Shvets-Rogovoi tied it up before the second intermission and the scores remained deadlocked until the extras.

Sexton orchestrates Avto’s win

Dinamo Riga 1 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 2 OT (0-0, 0-0, 1-1, 0-1)

Avtomobilist skated to an overtime win in Riga, going eight points clear at the top of the Eastern Conference thanks to a Francis Pare goal. The Canadian’s 15th of the season, and his first since Dec. 21, was enough to separate the teams after a hard-fought game in Latvia.

It took some time for the deadlock to be broken. After two periods without a goal, the teams traded two in quick succession. Dan Sexton gave Avtomobilist the lead in the 48th minute, only for Mathew Maione to tie it up two minutes later. Sexton moved onto 44 (21+23) points in this game, producing a game-winning display to snap a four-game spell without scoring.

Riga takes one point from the game and is three points behind HC Sochi in the race for the last playoff spot in the West.

Traktor closes on the playoffs, Slovan’s hopes officially over

Slovan Bratislava 0 Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 (0-0, 0-1, 0-1)

Traktor opened a six-point gap over Kunlun in the race for a top-eight finish in the East after edging to victory against the Western Conference’s bottom club.

A Danil Gubarev goal midway through the game gave Traktor the lead. For Gubarev, 27, this was his first KHL goal since the 2015-16 season. Traktor made the game safe when Christian Thomas scored into an empty net. The home team, beaten 3-0 in Chelyabinsk back in September, again failed to find the net; Vasily Demchenko made 41 saves for his shut-out.

Slovan, adrift at the foot of the KHL standings, is now winless in seven since its victory over Neftekhimik on December 28. Today’s results extinguished any theoretical chance of the Slovaks making the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

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