Ilya Konovalov enjoyed his 10th shut-out of the season. The 20-year-old made 38 saves as Lokomotiv edged past Sochi 1-0. Avtomobilist goalie Jakub Kovar did not have such a happy day – he left the game in Magnitogorsk due to injury and his team slipped to a 3-6 loss. Neftekhimik won 3-1 at home to Torpedo.
Metallurg picked up its first victory over Avtomobilist this season – but an injury to goalie Jakub Kovar might have bigger implications for the visitor.
The Czech netminder left the game in the 30th minute when he was hurt making a save. The immediate impact of that saw Magnitka turn a 1-2 deficit into a comfortable victory; longer term, Avtomobilist might recall with some concern that its worst run of the season came when Kovar missed a run of games through injury.
Avto had taken the lead with two goals late in the first period. Nigel Dawes and Denis Kazionov cancelled out an early opener from Dennis Rasmussen. But shortly after Kovar left the game, Maxim Matushkin tied the scores and Sergei Mozyakin put Metallurg back in front at the end of the second period. The final frame saw two goals for Evgeny Timkin as the host took control. Stephane Da Costa produced an individual effort in reply but there was no way back for the Motormen.
Lokomotiv recorded its sixth successive victory to leave Sochi looking anxiously over its shoulder in the playoff battle.
Not for the first time this season, the Railwaymen owed much to Ilya Konovalov. The 20-year-old goalie produced his 10th shut-out of the campaign – and made it five shut-outs in Loko’s last eight wins – after stopping 38 attempts from the visitor. The decisive goal came nine minutes from the end when Yegor Averin forced the puck home following Staffan Kronwall’s set-up on the slot.
The result tightens Loko’s grip on third place in the West, while Sochi remains in eighth, just one point clear of Dinamo Riga as the race for a playoff place goes down to the wire.
Neftekhimik’s recent resurgence under Vyacheslav Butsayev continued as the team made it four wins from six after seeing off Torpedo.
The home team snatched an early lead when Joonas Nattinen opened the scoring after 28 seconds. However, Torpedo responded at th start of the second period when Mikhail Varnakov tied the scores. That was Varnakov’s third game with a goal and he has 7 (4+3) points from that run, despite his team managing just one win in its last eight.
Neftekhimik secured the points in the final frame. Pavel Padakin got the go-ahead goal a minute after the restart, then Marat Khairullin wrapped it up a minute before the end. The home team is still hopeful of making the playoffs, but has just eight games left to claw back a nine-point gap to Traktor.