Andy Potts Andy Potts
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SKA St. Petersburg climbed to the summit of the KHL table with a thumping 7-1 victory over Dinamo Riga. At the same time, CSKA lost 2-5 at home to Barys, keeping the Kazakhs in contention for top spot in the Chernyshev Division. Traktor boosted its playoff prospects with an unexpected win at Ak Bars, Avangard scored six in Shanghai and Sibir won at Admiral.

Amur celebrates it first win of the year

Amur Khabarovsk 3 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 0 (0-0, 1-0, 2-0)

Two goals from Tomas Zohorna ended a 10-game losing streak for Amur. Alexander Gulyavtsev’s team picked up its first victory since Christmas Day as Salavat Yulaev failed to build on the momentum it picked up in Shanghai during the week.

The home team was in the ascendancy almost from the start but it wasn’t until the second period that Zohorna opened the scoring with a power play goal. Ufa offered little response, and Igor Rudenkov doubled the lead early in the third period before Zohorna put his second into an empty net late on.

It all added up to a disappointing return for former Amur goalie Juha Metsola, while Marek Langhamer made 22 saves for his first ever KHL shut-out.

Sibir keeps its playoff hopes alive

Admiral Vladivostok 3 Sibir Novosibirsk 5 (1-2, 1-2, 1-1)

Sibir now holds ninth place outright in the Eastern Conference after defeating Admiral – but there is still a seven-point gap to make up on Traktor.

After losing 4-2 here two days earlier, Sibir responded with a fast start. Goals from Ilya Morozov – his first of the season – and Dmitry Sayustov gave the visitor a 2-0 lead. Admiral hit back either side of the intermission to tie the scores but Sibir restored its advantage thanks to Viktor Komarov and Jukka Peltola.

The third period saw the teams trade goals. Yegor Milovzorov extended Sibir’s lead before Vladimir Butuzov’s second of the game made the final score 5-3 to the Novosibirsk team.

Avangard punishes Red Star lapses

Kunlun Red Star 3 Avangard Omsk 6 (0-1, 1-2, 2-3)

There were plenty of goals in Shanghai, and plenty of reasons for Red Star head coach Curt Fraser to be frustrated with his team. The newly-appointed coach lamented too many basic errors and too many penalties as Avangard took control.

It all began with an Ilya Mikheyev power play goal as Avangard dominated the first period. Olli Palola got the home team back on terms in the third, but more penalty trouble helped the visitor move to a 3-1 lead thanks to Maxim Chudinov and ex-Kunlun man Taylor Beck.

The final frame saw the teams exchange five goals. Visiting goalie Ivan Nalimov was recalled to the bench after allowing a soft goal for Justin Fontaine but there was little real danger of a home fightback. Mikheyev got his second of the night to wrap up the win.

Traktor stuns the champion

Ak Bars Kazan 1 Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 (0-1, 0-0, 1-1)

After two defeats without scoring a goal, Traktor’s playoff push was beginning to look a little bit vulnerable. But Christian Thomas put all that right, scoring twice to give his team a valuable victory in Kazan.

Photo: 26.01.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Traktor (Chelyabinsk)

Thomas opened the scoring in the 10th minute, applying the finish to a fine team play. That pushed Ak Bars forward and the home team took the initiative in the second period without finding a way past Vasily Demchenko in the Traktor net. Thomas added a second goal in the 45th minute when his one-timer converted a power play. Justin Azevedo pulled one back with five minutes left, but Ak Bars could not take the game to overtime.

Traktor remains seven points clear of Sibir in the race for eighth place, but extends its lead over Red Star and Neftekhimik to nine points as the season draws to a close.

SKA moves top, Jokerit secures a playoff place

SKA St. Petersburg 7 Dinamo Riga 1 (2-1, 4-0, 1-0)

A thumping win over Riga moves SKA to the top of the KHL ahead of CSKA, while Dinamo’s defeat confirms that Jokerit will be involved in this year’s playoffs.

Dinamo took a surprise lead in the seventh minute here through Mikelis Redlihs, but that provoked a crushing response from the home team. Sergei Plotnikov and David Rundblad sent SKA into the intermission with a 2-1 lead and four unanswered goals in the middle frame put the game beyond reach. Plotnikov got his second of the night and there were markers for Nail Yakupov, Pavel Datsyuk and Nikolai Prokhorkin. Andrei Kuzmenko completed the rout in the third period.

Dinamo’s defeat means that it can now no longer overtake fourth-placed Jokerit. However, the Latvians remain firmly in that playoff picture, just one point behind eighth-placed HC Sochi.

Rare win for Barys at CSKA

CSKA Moscow 2 Barys Astana 5 (0-2, 1-2, 1-1)

Barys had not won at CSKA since 2012 – but the class of 2019 is gunning for top spot in the Chernyshev Division and is out to prove that it can go deep into this year’s playoff. Consequently, a high-octane performance saw Barys leap into a 4-0 lead.

Photo: 26.01.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. CSKA (Moscow) - Barys (Astana)

Brandon Bochenski started it off inside 20 seconds but the game was settled by a burst of three goals either side of the first intermission. Darren Dietz doubled the lead right on the hooter before Andrei Petersson and Alexei Maklyukov scored twice in 82 seconds at the start of the middle frame.

CSKA tried to find a way back: Kirill Kaprizov’s power play goal got the host on the board and Anton Slepyshev struck with five minutes to play, keeping Barys honest as it saw out the game. But Bochenski had the final word with an empty net goal and CSKA lost its grip on top spot in the league table.

Minsk snaps five-game losing streak

Slovan Bratislava 2 Dinamo Minsk 4 (1-1, 1-2, 0-1)

Two teams in poor form met in Slovakia – and Minsk snapped a five-game losing streak to stretch Slovan’s winless run to 10 games.

Despite the unpromising build-up, the game proved to be absorbing enough with both teams holding the lead at different times. Jonathon Blum put Dinamo up midway through the first period, only for Mario Lunter and Eric Gelinas to turn it around either side of the intermission. The visitor responded to lead again through Andrei Stepanov and an Artyom Volkov short-handed goal in the middle frame before an empty net goal from Sergei Kostitsyn saw Minsk secure the win.

Dinamo’s win means that it still maintains a theoretical chance of getting into the playoff picture, although that would require an improbable 10-game winning run until the end of the season. Slovan, with eight games left of its season, is eight points adrift at the foot of the table.

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